Jim Talent, a former Republican Senator and one of Mitt Romney’s top campaign advisors, has played an instrumental role in the Romney camp’s positions on energy. Specifically, Talent has pushed for greater consumption and mining of coal to meet America’s energy needs.
What the campaign failed to mention is that the lobbying firm that Talent is still on the payroll with lists one of the largest coal-producing companies in the country as one of its top clients.
And although Talent is not registered as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. (thereby making it illegal for him to engage in lobbying activities,) his website clearly states that “lobbying” is one of the services he is able to personally provide for clients.
David Halperin has the story at Republic Report:
Last fall, the Romney campaign released an energy policy paper that included a statement by Talent blaming government regulation for America’s energy challenges: “The problem is not that America does not have energy. The problem is that our government—alone among the governments of the world—will not allow its own people to recover the energy that they possess.” And where can such energy be found? Talent has an idea: “America has hundreds of years of coal reserves.”
Even as he touts long-term use of coal for Romney, Talent remains today the co-chairman of Mercury Public Affairs, a D.C. lobbying and communications firm. As the Boston Globe first reported last year, Mercury lobbies for St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private sector coal company.
Peabody has paid Mercury nearly $700,000 in the past six years. The Romney energy paper did not disclose that Talent’s firm was earning money from the coal industry when Talent praised coal as a pillar of America’s energy future for centuries to come.
Newsweek ranked Peabody energy 500th out of 500 — dead last — in its environmental ranking of America’s 500 largest corporations in 2009 and 2010, because of the impact of mining and burning coal and because of Peabody’s aggressive stance against regulation. (The company managed to move up in the ratings for 2011 — to 492.)
Halperin points out that Peabody company is a firm denier of manmade climate change, and goes as far as to tell the public that the greatest threat to humanity is our energy crisis – a crisis that they are conveniently able to solve.
But the connections to dirty energy companies are just the beginning. Here are a few other gems that Halperin unearthed about Romney’s trusted adviser:
In June, Stephanie Harnett, a senior associate at Talent’s firm Mercury, was caught posing as a reporter and spying on labor organizers at a Wal-Mart warehouse. At the time, Mercury represented Wal-Mart.
In 2001 — after his unsuccessful bid to be Missouri’s governor and prior to his successful 2002 Senate run — Talent was employed for ten months by the Washington lobbying and law firm Arent Fox, which paid him $230,000 even though he was barred by law from lobbying and not licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.
While this information is certainly troubling, the big issue with Talent is that he clearly has Mitt Romney’s ear when it comes to making policy, and the policies he is pushing are bad for America. Relying on fossil fuels is an outdated way to power the economy, and if policies revolve around continued addiction to dirty energy, the United States will continue to lose ground (and valuable time) on renewable energy technologies.
Romney’s plan is clearly to increase our reliance on fossil fuels, as his positions on the issues show us, as well as his roster of advisers like Talent. And while the Democrats have offered some great sound bites and rhetoric on the issue, their record over the last four years shows that they are also not that serious about getting America off of fossil fuels. Regardless of the outcome, it appears that the environment and the global climate will continue to be largely ignored in this year’s election.