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Lee Fang

Lee Fang

Investigating the intersection of politics, lobbying and public policy at RepublicReport.org.

How Wall Street Money Is Driving Out the Last Populist House Republican

Walter Jones

Representative Walter Jones meets with military families in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, DC. (Reuters/Mannie Garcia)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican who represents a wide swath of eastern North Carolina, might not strike you as a populist. But as a lawmaker, the veteran politician with a slow Southern drawl has become a gadfly in his own party for thumbing his nose at powerful political interests. He is the only GOP co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, a measure to reveal the donors of dark-money campaign advertisements. He is among the loudest critics of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling an audience one that “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.” And Speaker John Boehner removed Jones from the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees Wall Street. His sin? Bucking leadership and supporting many bills to further regulate the financial sector, along with serving as the last remaining House Republican to have voted for the Dodd-Frank reform package.

The Republican establishment has attempted to remove Jones from office by dispatching a number of primary challengers over the years. For this cycle, a former Bush administration aide named Taylor Griffin is the party favorite to finally wipe out Jones.

Several outlets, such as Bloomberg News, have reported that Griffin’s candidacy is being heavily promoted by the financial industry. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks helped fuel the $114,000 fundraising haul Griffin reported in his first campaign disclosure report. Earlier this week, a Super PAC financed in part by hedge fund titan Paul Singer went on air with a negative ad against Jones.

What hasn’t been reported, however, is that Griffin himself is a longtime political consultant for the biggest predators on Wall Street.

Republic Report has obtained a disclosure report that shows that Griffin’s client list reads like a who’s who of financial interests that have preyed upon North Carolina families for short term gain.

Griffin, whose career includes a stint on the the Bush election campaign team and Treasury Department, is a co-founder of Hamilton Place Strategies, a “policy and public affairs” firm that boasts of its team of former government officials. Like many companies that work to influence policy within the Beltway on behalf of corporate interests, Hamilton Place Strategies does not register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, though it advertises its ability to shape the regulatory environment. The company, which specializes in public relations, is located a stone’s throw from K Street and the White House in a corridor of Washington favored by many influence peddlers.

Griffin touts himself as a conservative small businessman. His campaign website “About” section makes only a passing reference to his prior position with Hamilton Place Strategies, noting obliquely that he founded a “leading public policy consulting firm, quickly growing it to a business that included over 20 employees on its payroll.” Before launching his campaign in October, Griffin sold his share of the firm and moved to New Bern, a city within North Carolina’s third congressional district.

Griffin’s client list has never before been reported. But a mandatory candidate filing, disclosed by the House Clerk last week, opens a window into his business operation.

Griffin worked for Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS), the infamous company that forged foreclosure documents on behalf of the big banks. In a practice that became known as “robo-signing,” LPS created more than “1 million fraudulently signed and notarized mortgage-related documents with property recorders’ offices throughout the United States.” Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial allegedly used robo-signing to engage in unlawful foreclosures. The robo-signing tactics were reportedly used extensively in North Carolina.

Though Griffin revealed his LPS work on his disclosure form, he also refused to list other clients, noting that “certain confidential clients are not reported due to terms of agreement into at the time services were retained.” But public statements from his company, including from Tony Fratto, another co-founder of Hamilton Place Strategies, shows the firm has been working for Magnetar Capital, a hedge fund famous for helping helping inflate the housing bubble that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

In a Pulitzer Prize–winning article for ProPublica, reporter Jesse Eisinger revealed that Magnetar helped create “arcane mortgage-based instruments, pushed for risky things to go inside them and then bet against the investments,” a scheme that earned them hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, according to reports, Magnetar is back in the housing business, taking advantage of low prices to buy up homes and rent them out.

As part of their strategy to dupe investors, Magnetar allegedly enlisted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s to provide a high-level A-grade listing for Magnetar’s synthetic financial products. Though it’s not clear what he did for the firm, Griffin lists McGraw Hill Financial, the parent company of Standard & Poor’s, as one of his clients (the firm has been accused of engaging in other fraudulent rating schemes that led to the financial collapse).

Another Griffin client, according to his ethics form, is an interest group that is actively lobbying to hike property insurance rates on North Carolina families, including those in the Outer Bankers region Griffin hopes to represent.

Griffin works for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade association for property insurers. This year, the PCIAA promoted a state property insurance hike as high as 35 percent on homeowners in North Carolina beach communities. In Washington, the PCIAA’s team of ten registered lobbyists worked to oppose the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, recently passed legislation designed to “freeze premium increases on most homes governed by flood-insurance rate maps.”

As The Charlotte Observer reported, without this legislation, some coastal families faced flood insurance rate hikes from $850 a year now to as high as $21,000.

Griffin’s campaign did not respond to Republic Report’s request for comment about his personal finances. The forms, however, have other revelations.

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Griffin has told reporters that he sold his shares in Hamilton Place Strategies, suggesting that he is no longer affiliated with the firm or in public policy consulting. However, the disclosure reports show that he has continued to earn a living from Hamilton Place Strategies—at least in excess of $5,000—and this year earned income (likely through his other consulting firm, Sulgrave Partners) from PCIAA, McGrawHill Financial, Huron Healthcare, Motorola Mobility and other clients.

In his first television advertisement that began airing this month before the May 5 primary, Griffin says that he is the “clear conservative choice for Congress.” In a spot that is clearly biographical in nature, Griffin references his consulting work for the financial sector interests thus: “I’ve also owned my own business, so I know what it means to make a budget and stick to it.” Left unsaid, the $406,000 a year he earned promoting the very worst of Wall Street.

 

Read Next: Senator Joe Manchin defends the law firm accused of concealing black lung medical evidence.

Senator Manchin Defends Law Firm Accused of Concealing Black Lung Medical Evidence

Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

Only one day after the Center for Public Integrity’s reporting series on denials of black lung benefits to coal miners was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) defended the controversial law firm at the center of the investigation.

As he stepped to the podium of the National Western Mining Convention in Denver on Tuesday, Manchin heaped praise upon Jackson Kelly, a sponsor of the event and the law firm implicated in unethically concealing medical evidence of miners dying of black lung.

“I want to thank my dear friends at Jackson Kelly,” exclaimed the senator. In his remarks, Manchin also noted that his former staffer, Kelly Goes, is now an employee of the firm.

In a brief interview with Republic Report after his speech, Manchin was asked about Jackson Kelly’s conduct regarding black lung cases. He brushed aside criticism of the firm.

The Center for Public Integrity story revealed that Jackson Kelly has systemically denied coal miners black lung benefit claims by withholding unfavorable evidence and shaping the opinions of doctors called upon in court. CFPI Reporter Chris Hamby’s investigation “suggests that there has been a pattern and practice by lawyers at the Jackson Kelly law firm which has compromised the integrity of the black lung benefits program and potentially tainted numerous decisions adversely affecting coal miners and their survivors,” wrote Representatives George Miller (D-California) and Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) in a letter to the Department of Labor last year.

“If the law firm is doing their job and we don’t like it, we’ve got to look at the rules and laws we have on the books,” said Manchin, after being asked by Republic Report about his praise of Jackson Kelly. “They’ve been a prestigious law firm for a long time in West Virginia. There’s good people that I know that work there and if there’s something that’s wrong and needs to be fixed or changed, it will be,” he continued.

A Jackson Kelly attorney named Douglas Smoot had his law license suspended in 2011 for one year after being accused of hiding evidence in a black lung case. Other Jackson Kelly attorneys have faced investigations over their conduct in regards to black lung cases. One retired judge who handled black lung cases reviewed documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity investigation and said the firm had been “really misleading the court.”

Manchin is a close ally to the coal industry. At the conference, he touted his new legislation that would block the EPA from implementing new regulations on coal power plants. Jackson Kelly, according to its website, has represented the coal industry since the mid-19th century.

As Public Campaign noted, Manchin has “received $50,825 from Jackson Kelly employees during his time in Congress, his seventh-largest donor.”

Manchin did not sign on to the letter from other congressional Democrats asking the Labor Department to investigate claims that Jackson Kelly improperly concealed medical evidence of black lung claims.

Yet Manchin told us that he is confident that any potential wrongdoing will be worked out.

“You can’t find people guilty before they go through the process. Are you accusing them of being guilty?” said Manchin. Asked again about the Center for Public Integrity report, Manchin replied, “I’m just saying, let’s see where it unfolds.”

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Watch the interview below:

Read Next: The tax breaks that are killing the planet

Why Is a Congressional Hearing on Natural Gas Being Organized by Former Natural Gas Lobbyists?

Natural gas pipeline

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

Today, the congressional Energy and Commerce committee's  subcommittee on Energy and Power is scheduled to hold a hearing on Representative Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) bill to force the Obama administration to approve all applications for new liquefied natural gas terminals used to export natural gas. A close look at the staffers involved with this particular subcommittee reveals that several have close ties to the LNG industry.

– Energy and Power staff counsel Patrick Currier is a former lobbyist for gas and energy companies, including the Gas Processors Association, FirstEnergy Corp, and the CCS Alliance.

– Energy and Power chief counsel Tom Hassenboehler is a former lobbyist for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, one of the most vocal trade groups pushing to build more LNG export capacity.

The chair of the subcommittee, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), also has a stake in this debate. The most recently available personal finance disclosures show Whitfield holds between $250,000-$500,000 in stock with ExxonMobil and holds between $250,000-$500,000 with Chevron — two companies that would gain substantially from new LNG export terminals. ExxonMobil is heavily invested in expanding into the LNG industry, and last week, posted an item on its company blog criticizing the Department of Energy for its “go-slow approach to processing [LNG terminal] applications.” Earlier this month, Chevron chairman John Watson told a crowd in Houston that there’s “no question that sufficient gas exists in the US and Canada to export globally.”

Bill Cooper, president of the Center for Liquified Natural Gas, a pro-LNG export association, said he is “happy” about the wave of political support. “We didn’t gin up the Ukrainian crisis. We didn’t gin up the idea that it ought to be connected in some way to LNG exports. But Congress did, obviously, and a lot of editorials, experts and geopolitical analysts have all jumped on that. We appreciate the attention that LNG exports are receiving, and if it does provide a catalyst to make something happen that heretofore has not, then we’re going to be very happy with that,” Cooper told NGI Daily.

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On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) held her own hearing on the topic of LNG exports. “Landrieu is expected to make the case that an increase in liquified natural gas exports would create high-paying jobs and turn the US into an energy superpower,” buzzed The Hill’s Overnight Energy before the hearing.

As Republic Report has noted, pundits and politicians closely aligned with the LNG industry have used the crisis in Ukraine to demand more LNG exports, even though doing so would not hamper Russia’s dominance over the market or affect the price of gas in the region.

Read Next: Bob Dreyfuss on what's wrong with Putin's approach to relations with America.

How the Gas Lobby Is Using the Crimea Crisis to Push Bad Policy and Make More Money

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, which has ties with Russian gas giants (Photo courtesy of Michael Wuertenberg, CC 2.0)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

A small group of pundits and politicians with close ties to the fossil fuel industry are using the crisis in Crimea to demand that the United States promote natural gas exports as a quick fix for the volatile situation. But such a solution, experts say, would cost billions of dollars, require years of development, and would not significantly impact the international price of gas or Russia’s role as a major supplier for the region. Rather, the move would simply increase gas prices for American consumers while enriching companies involved in the liquified natural gas (LNG) trade.

On Capitol Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) was among the first to use the crisis in Ukraine to demand that the Department of Energy speed up the approval process for new LNG terminals. “Now is the time to send the signal to our global allies that US natural gas will be an available and viable alternative to their energy needs,” said Upton in a statement. As we’ve reported, Upton’s committee is managed in part by Tom Hassenboehler, a former lobbyist who joined Upton’s staff last year after working for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the primary trade group pushing to expand natural gas development and LNG exports.

Paul Bledsoe, in an opinion column for Reuters, wrote that the United States should expedite natural gas exports to “bolster transatlantic solidarity and help to form a united US-EU response to Russian intervention in Crimea.” He was identified in the piece as a member of the “White House Climate Change Task Force under President Clinton.” What wasn’t disclosed, however, is that Bledsoe is an official with a pro–fossil fuels think tank called the Bipartisan Policy Center, which is funded by the American Gas Association and energy companies with a financial stake in promoting the natural gas industry. (Although he’s not listed on the website, a representative with BPC told Republic Report that Bledsoe continues to work there.)

Groups created and funded by Charles Koch, chief executive of Koch Industries, have also demanded that America should respond to the crisis in Crimea with LNG exports. “A serious President would also fast-forward permits on new liquefied natural gas terminals that could ship to Europe,” claims a column posted by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-run advocacy group. A similar argument is advanced by the Koch-founded Cato Institute.

What’s left undisclosed, however, is the huge financial stake in the debate for Koch Industries. A brochure for the company shows that Koch has deeply expanded its footprint into the natural gas market, and is now actively engaged in shipping, sourcing and marketing LNG, in addition to becoming a leader in developing financial instruments related to natural gas. “To complement existing North American activities from Houston and to optimize their global portfolio, KS&T companies are expanding a Europe-wide natural gas business from Geneva and an LNG trading business from offices in Houston and London,” reads the document. Further, Koch federal lobbying disclosures show that the firm has pushed a bill to expedite LNG exports from America to NATO countries.

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In perhaps the most ironic twist of this public debate around how to respond to Russia’s incursion into Crimea, American lobbyists with ties to Russia are calling for a solution that would not only shield Russian gas oligarchs, but enrich them. The National Association of Manufacturers has opposed tough sanctions on Russia. Instead, NAM has used the crisis in Ukraine to “urge speedier approval of liquified natural gas exports, arguing that the move would weaken Vladimir Putin’s control over Europe’s energy supply.” NAM’s chief lobbyist Jay Timmons told Politico that an LNG-export response would “send a strong signal to the Russian Federation, our NATO allies, our trading partners and the rest of the world that energy exports matter and are a critical tool of American foreign policy.”

What Timmons did not mention is that ExxonMobil is a leading member of his trade association, and that ExxonMobil has extensive ties to Russian gas giants, including partnerships to develop natural gas in the United States and around the world. (For more on the business ties, see Kert Davies and Steve Horn’s recent reporting on the Putin-sanctioned alliance between ExxonMobil and Russian state–owned oil and gas giant Rosneft.) In short, Timmons’s strong signal to Russia would help Russian gas businesses.

Read Next: How to avert another Cold War over Crimea.

Jon Kyl, Barred From Lobbying, Offers to Assist Clients with Tax Reform

Jon Kyl

Former Senator Jon Kyl speaking in Phoenix, Arizona in 2012. (Reuters/Joshua Lott)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

Need help navigating the proposal federal tax system overhaul? Covington & Burling, a major law-lobbying firm in Washington, DC, sent out a client alert recently announcing that former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) stands ready to assist businesses seeking the best outcome of the legislative proposal led by Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

If enacted, the tax overhaul expected this year will change billions of dollars in tax credits and rates.

Kyl, however, is barred from lobbying because he left the senate last year and is still within the “cooling-off period.” The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act extends the ban on former senators engaging in lobbying from one to two years, leaving Kyl off the market for lobbying until January of 2015.

But as we’ve covered, lobbying law is poorly enforced and ambiguously defined. Former staffers and lawmakers prohibited from engaging in lobby activity often flout the law by engaging in meetings with officials, often with the cover that they’re just doing so in order to collect intelligence, rather than “lobby.”

Shortly after he retired from office, Kyl joined the lobbying team of Covington & Burling, euphemistically titled the “Public Policy and Government Affairs”division. And the tax reform alert, which is embedded below, notes that Kyl is part of a team that is actively communicating with government officials on legislation now debated in Congress (emphasis added):

Covington’s Public Policy and Government Affairs and Tax practice groups—which include Senator Jon Kyl, former top Republican on the Senate’s Finance Subcommittee on Taxation; former senior Treasury officials; and Ed Yingling, former President and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA) — are conversant with the details. Many of our team members are in regular consultation with senior Members of Congress, Treasury and IRS officials, and staffs of the Congressional tax-writing committees and are able to explain the hundreds of pages of proposals.

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See the alert below:

Hot Topic Tax Reform

Read Next: Lee Fang on Congressional candidate David Jolly’s winning millions of dollars in contracts for his clients through connections to his old boss

The Koch Brothers Spent Twice as Much on the 2012 Election as the Top Ten Unions Combined

Koch spending

(Chart courtesy of RepublicReport.org)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel either has no understanding of campaign finance, or is willfully misleading her readers. In either case, her column today about the Koch brothers’ political spending—which parrots a meme that has bounced around conservative blogs and websites like a bad chain e-mail—gets the facts about Koch spending versus union spending completely wrong.

In her column, “The Really Big Money? Not the Kochs,” Strassel cites a Center for Responsive Politics list to claim that unions “collectively spent $620,873,623 more than Koch Industries” on political races. Of course, if you actually visit this page on the CRP website, the list runs below a disclaimer noting that it does not include certain Super PAC spending or most undisclosed dark money spending, the preferred route for the Koch brothers for decades. In fact, the CRP site notes that union spending might appear inflated since unions’ traditional PAC spending is coupled with outside Super PAC spending. For the purposes of this chart, union spending is inflated compared to the giving of companies like Koch or Super PAC donors like Sheldon Adelson.

For the last election, Koch PACs spent $4.9 million in disclosed contributions (figures that appear on the chart referenced by Strassel). But they also spent over $407 million on undisclosed campaign entities, which does not show up in the CRP chart.

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Republic Report broke down the figures for the last election and found that Koch groups alone spent more than double the combined political spending (including to undisclosed group) for the top ten unions combined. The chart includes union spending on dark money Democratic groups and Koch spending on dark money groups like Americans for Prosperity.

This undisclosed campaign system is nothing new for the Koch brothers. In 1995 and 1996, Koch set up a shell company called Triad Management to spend millions in secret money to help the Republican Party. Of course, this type of spending never shows up in databases like the one cited by Strassel.

All NRLB-regulated unions, on the other hand, disclose every outside payment. Payments that cannot be found through the FEC can be found on a database maintained by the Labor Department. Individuals and corporations are under no such similar disclosure rules. The Koch money identified recently by The Washington Post, the $407 million, relates only to money filtered through foundations and nonprofits. The money Koch spends as a corporate entity, as it has in the past, may have gone unreported.

 

Read Next: Lee Fang investigates DC’s shadow lobbying complex.

David Jolly’s Clients Won Earmarks From His Old Bosses, Bill Young

David Jolly

David Jolly speaks during a candidate forum in Clearwater, Florida, February 25, 2014. (Reuters/Brian Blanco) 

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.com

David Jolly, the Republican congressional candidate vying for the special election in Florida next week, has not only made a career out of lobbying. Records reviewed by Republic Report show that Jolly’s clients won millions of dollars in taxpayer earmarks from his old boss, the late Representative C.W. “Bill” Young (R-FL), an appropriator known for his lavish use of the earmarking process.

These earmarks contrast sharply with the claims made by Jolly that he did not build his business career through political connections to his former employer.

“I did not build my practice around Mr. Young, not in any stretch,” Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times.

Two of the firms that hired Jolly as a lobbyist—BayCare Health Systems and Alakai Defense Systems—won lucrative earmarks from Young while paying Jolly to influence the committee where Young was a senior member.

In 2009, BayCare Health Systems retained Jolly and another former Young staffer named Douglas Gregory. Later that year, Young secured a $1 million earmark for BayCare Health Systems for “facilities and equipment.”

From 2008 through the beginning of 2010, Alakai Defense Systems, a sensor technology company for the military, retained Jolly as a lobbyist. Records indicate that during this period, Young awarded Alakai with over $2 million worth of earmarks.

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act prohibits certain former staffers in Congress from lobbying their former employers for a period of time. As The New York Times recently reported, many former staffers have flouted the “cooling off period” ban by taking advantage of an array of loopholes in the law.

Jolly, who left Young’s staff to join the lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates in January of 2007, became a lobbyist just before the ban came into effect.

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“Yes, there are concerns raised when a former staffer appears to use his or her ties to his employer for personal gain,” says Jessica Levinson, associate professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. ”The cooling off period prohibition is designed to prevent people from using their connections in government to obtain unfair or preferential treatment or access for private clients.”

“The idea,” says Levinson, is that “everyone, regardless of whether or not they are represented by former staffers or officials, should get a fair shot to persuade their officials.”

Read Next: Lee Fang writes that Obama’s newest pick for TPP trade post is a former SOPA lobbyist.

Obama Nominates SOPA Lobbyist for TPP Trade Post

Robert Holleyman

Robert Holleyman (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

This morning, President Obama nominated Robert Holleyman as deputy US trade representative. If confirmed by the US Senate, Holleyman will help lead the effort to pass the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Notably, Holleyman is a former lobbyist who led efforts to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act legislation, better known as SOPA, when he was leader of the Business Software Alliance. The SOPA debate (along with its sister legislation, PROTECT-IP, in the Senate) brought a spotlight on industry efforts to undermine Internet freedom through what many considered to be draconian intellectual property policy.

Critics have pointed out, the leaked TPP documents relating to TPP negotiations reveal that the United States is seeking to resurrect portions of the SOPA bill through the TPP, namely, holding Internet Service Providers liable for hosting copyright infringement and extending the copyright life of certain corporate-owned copyrights. As Susan Sell, a professor of political science at George Washington University, noted, the proposed TPP provisions suggest the deal will advance intellectual property rules that "could not [be] achieved through an open and democratic process."

During the SOPA debate, Holleyman was chief executive of the Business Software Alliance, a trade group for software companies including IBM. Holleyman commended then–Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith for his work in sponsoring SOPA and for pushing for its passage. In 2012, as the bill worked its way through Congress, the BSA spent over $1.6 million on lobbying. After widespread outrage against the bill, which eventually failed, BSA withdrew official support and sought similar policy changes through other legislation.

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If the Senate approves Holleyman as the next deputy trade representative, he will have another opportunity to advance SOPA-style policy.

Last week, Republic Report broke several stories regarding the TPP, including bonuses paid by CitiGroup and Bank of America to officials also tapped by the administration to lead the TPP deal. We also reported on media companies and their lobbying efforts on the bill—which have been extensive, despite the lack of coverage media outlets are devoting to the issue.

Read Next: Lee Fang uncovers the shadow lobbying complex.

Chevron’s Lobbyist Now Runs the Congressional Science Committee

Chevron sign

(Photo courtesy of Charles Hathaway, CC 2.0)

This post was originally published at RepublicReport.org

For Chevron, the second-largest oil company in the country with $26.2 billion in annual profits, it helps to have friends in high places. With little fanfare, one of Chevron’s top lobbyists, Stephen Sayle, has become a senior staff member of the House Committee on Science, the standing congressional committee charged with “maintaining our scientific and technical leadership in the world.”

Throughout much of 2013, Sayle was the chief executive officer of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying firm retained by Chevron to influence Congress. For fees that total $320,000 a year, Sayle and his team lobbied on a range of energy-related issues, including implementation of EPA rules under the Clean Air Act, regulation of ozone standards, as well as “Congressional and agency oversight related to offshore oil, natural gas development and oil spills.”

Sayle’s ethics disclosure, obtained by Republic Report, shows that he was paid $500,000 by Chevron’s lobbying firm before taking his current gig atop the Science Committee.

In recent months, the House Science Committee has become a cudgel for the oil industry, issuing subpoenas and holding hearings to demonize efforts to improve the environment. Some of the work by the committee reflect the lobbying priorities of Chevron.

In December, the Science Committee, now chaired by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), held yet another hearing to try to discredit manmade global warming. In August, the committee issued the first subpoena in twenty-one years, demanding “all the raw data from a number of federally funded studies linking air pollution to disease.”

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Though Chevron has gone to great lengths to advertise a lofty environmental record, the company continues to break air pollution laws while quietly backpedalling on its prior commitments to renewable energy. A Bloomberg News investigation reported that Chevron estimated that its biofuel investments would return only 5 percent in profits, a far cry from the 15 percent to which the oil giant is accustomed, and quietly moved to shelve renewable fuel units of the company. In California, Chevron is battling the newly created cap-and-trade system for carbon pollution. And in states across the country, Chevron has lobbied and provided financial support to a range of right-wing nonprofits dedicated to repealing carbon-cutting regulations, including the low-carbon fuel standard.

Earlier this year, Dow Lohnes’ lobbying practice merged with Levick, a public affairs firm.

(HT: Sheila Kaplan)

Read Next: Lee Fang on new, under-the-table lobbying tactics

Farm Bill Cuts $8 Billion in Food Stamps, Preserves Handouts to Koch Industries

Farm Bill 2014

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, right, Thad Cochran, R-MS, second from right, and Senator John Hoeven, R-ND, center, just after Congress gave its final approval to the sweeping five-year farm bill, Tuesday, February 4, 2014. At left are Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., and Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-MN.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

After a conservative-led revolt against the Farm Bill, a five-year congressional funding program for agricultural and hunger programs, a deal will reportedly reach the president’s desk on Friday. The final iteration of the bill cuts $8 billion from food stamps, a key demand made by Americans for Prosperity, which aired advertisements and organized opposition to the initial Farm Bill because of the supposed waste of providing food assistance to needy families. Americans for Prosperity is controlled by the billionaire Koch brothers and their cohort. Koch groups claimed the Farm Bill serves “special interests and powerful corporations” over the taxpayers.

Yet, the final funding package contains a number of giveaways that benefit Koch Industries’ bottom line:

Biomass Subsidies: The Farm Bill preserves $881 million in mandatory spending for biomass energy, a program that Koch Industries’ timber subsidiary Georgia-Pacific has used to to extract government subsidies. Georgia-Pacific applied and qualified for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program for its facilities in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Oregon and Florida. Lobbying reports from Koch Industries show that the company has pressured Congress on the Farm Bill, specifically on the BCAP program. Records also show that Koch Industries executive Deborah Baker asked Department of Agriculture officials to expand BCAP forestry eligibility.

• New Clean Water Act Exemption: The Farm Bill enacts a measure that ensures runoff of pesticides and other chemicals from forestry sites may not be regulated under the Clean Water Act as industrial pollution. The Farm Bill includes an amendment that would define the “EPA’s treatment of forestry operations as non-point sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act.” A bipartisan group of legislators sponsored the forestry amendment, which Wild Oregon warns will overturn “a recent court ruling that found that pollution originating from active logging roads be treated similarly to other industrial activities.” The group says the amendment poses “a serious risk not just to the [Nestucca River], but to countless other rivers and streams in Oregon that have been damaged by poor logging and road building practices.” Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific signed on with other companies in lobbying for this amendment to the Farm Bill.

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Koch Industries was also joined by other energy and timber corporations in lobbying for the expansion of biomass energy programs. Timber companies and their trade associations, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, came together to demand the Clean Water Act exemption.

Recipients of food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), had few resources to influence Congress. Although several grocery and convenient store industry groups pushed back against cuts on SNAP, defenders of food stamps were largely outgunned during the debate. Anti-poverty activists say the deep cuts in the food stamp program will amount to a $90 monthly reduction for many families.

 

Read Next: When Americans share their stories of living in poverty, who in Congress listens?

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