lobbying

Tue, 2011-12-27 22:15Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: Money, Corruption, And Misinformation

It is said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That statement has proven itself true time after time in both politics and business, but I would like to amend that statement slightly: Power corrupts, but money and power corrupt absolutely. This year has been no different. We’ve seen unprecedented amounts of money flowing from the dirty energy industry into the hands of politicians in order to achieve everything on their corporate wish lists.

From near constant hammering of the Environmental Protection Agency, to getting approval for dirty energy projects, corporate money has corrupted every level of politics this year.

I already covered the extensive efforts of the Koch brothers in a previous post, but they are hardly the only culprits who are attempting to undermine democracy and decency by pouring money into politics. Here are a few other stories of interest that DeSmogBlog has covered over the last 12 months:

The biggest “non-event” for climate denier dollars this year was the Heartland Institute’s “Denial-a-palooza” conference:

Tue, 2011-12-27 11:08Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: The Koch Brothers

Over the last 12 months, DeSmogBlog contributors have helped spread the word about some of the most dastardly deeds of Charles and David Koch. Here are some of the biggest stories we covered this year on the issue of corruption and dirty energy money.

It is impossible to talk about dirty energy money and corruption without mentioning the Koch brothers. Before 2011, two of the wealthiest men in America were able to operate in almost complete secrecy while they spread misinformation about climate change and attempted to dismantle environmental protections:

The money in politics database Open Secrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has a lengthy list of specific legislation that Koch Industries has lobbied for and against. On the “against” list, you’ll find legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a bill that would have put Americans to work building a green energy infrastructure; the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – again, a bill that would have created green energy jobs and infrastructure; and the Clean Air Protection Act – a bill that would limit the amount of acceptable emissions into our atmosphere.

The Koch brothers, through their PACs and other organizations, have funded numerous efforts to defeat legislation aimed at reducing pollution or protecting the environment. After all, their companies don't pay the real cost for the pollution they release.

And then there was their misinformation bus tour:

Sun, 2011-12-18 16:19Farron Cousins
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Report: Arsenic From Coal Ash Disposal Sites Leaching Into Groundwater

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released a startling report showing that coal ash dumps near coal-burning power plants are leaching arsenic and other toxic chemicals into water supplies. The new report identifies 20 new sites in 10 different states where coal ash is contaminating water supplies. These sites are in addition to the 33 coal ash disposal sites that EIP identified earlier this year that are contaminating water supplies.

From an EIP release:

EIP has identified a total of 20 additional coal ash dump sites causing groundwater and soil contamination in 10 states – Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. These include 19 sites where coal ash appears to have contaminated groundwater with arsenic or other pollutants at levels above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL). All but two have also measured concentrations of other pollutants – such as boron, molybdenum, and manganese – above EPA-recommended Health Advisories for children or adults. In addition, our report includes new information about 7 previously recognized damage cases, including stunning evidence of groundwater more toxic than hazardous waste leachate.

After EPA documented 67 proven or potential ‘damage cases’ in 2007, we found groundwater or surface water contamination at 70 additional sites, and submitted our analysis to EPA in two reports released in February and August of 2010. The current report brings the total number of damage cases identified by EPA and other groups to 157.
Tue, 2011-11-29 15:06Steve Horn
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To Understand What's Happening with Fracking Decisions in New York, Follow the Money

In a November 25 article titled, “Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas,” The New York Times reported:

Companies that drill for natural gas have spent more than $3.2 million lobbying state government since the beginning of last year, according to a review of public records. The broader natural gas industry has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign accounts of lawmakers and the governor…The companies and industry groups have donated more than $430,000 to New York candidates and political parties, including over $106,000 to Mr. Cuomo, since the beginning of last year, according to a coming analysis of campaign finance records by Common Cause.

Those who were wondering the motive behind NY Democratic Governor Anthony Cuomo's decision to lift New York's moratorium on fracking now have a better sense for his enthusiasm: campaign cash.

Back in June, I wrote,

Despite the copiously-documented ecological danger inherent in the unconventional drilling process and in the…gas emissions process, as well as the visible anti-fracking sentiment of the people living in the Marcellus Shale region, Cuomo has decided it's 'go time.' Other than in New York City's watershed, inside a watershed used in the city of Syracuse, in underground water sources deemed important in cities and towns, as well on state lands, spanning from parks and wildlife preserves, 85% of the state's lands are now fair game for fracking, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

It is clear that Cuomo did not have science on the top of his priority list when making his decision to lift the moratorium. 

But as any good reporter knows, possibly one of the most crucial tenets of good jouranlism is to follow the money, which is just what the Times and Common Cause did. 

Tue, 2011-10-25 17:07Steve Horn
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TransCanada Spent $540,000 Lobbying in Third Quarter For Keystone XL Pipeline

TransCanada Corp, the company hoping to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, spent $540,000 on lobbying in the third quarter of 2011, according to lobbying disclosure records released this week.

In addition to $390,000 reported by Paul Elliott, TransCanada Pipelines, Ltd's infamous in-house lobbyist, two outside firms lobbied on TransCanada's behalf to promote the Keystone XL pipeline: Bryan Cave LLP, which reported $120,000 in earnings from TransCanda in quarter three; and McKenna, Long & Aldridge, which was paid $30,000 by TransCanada in the same period. 

As DeSmog readers know well, the Keystone XL pipeline would carry Alberta tar sands bitumen south to the Gulf Coast at Port Arthur, Texas, where much of it would be exported overseas.

As seen in an earlier investigation conducted by DeSmogBlog, many of the lobbyists acting as hired guns for TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline have direct ties to the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton, whose State Department has been tasked to make the final decison on the pipeline.

These latest figures come on the heels of yesterday's revelation that a former Bryan Cave LLP lobbyist for TransCanada, Broderick Johnson, has been hired to serve on the Obama for President 2012 campaign team. DeSmogBlog first reported that Johnson had lobbied for TransCanada and the Keystone XL pipeline in 2010 in our investigation into the web of lobbyists connected to Clinton and Obama.

“This is a deeply troubling development. A lobbyist who has taken corporate cash to shill for this dirty and dangerous pipeline now has even more opportunity to whisper into the president's ear,” said Kim Huynh of Friends of the Earth, in a statement.

The Obama Administration and its “State Department Oil Services” seem awfully cozy with TransCanada, and this influx of half a million more lobbying dollars over the past few months again raises questions about whether the Obama administration is listening to the will of the people of Nebraska and others concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline, or to the army of tar sands lobbyists promoting this fossil fuel boondoggle.  His campaign team's decision to hire Broderick Johnson sends a pretty clear signal.

Tue, 2011-09-06 16:39Carol Linnitt
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New West Partnership Includes CAPP Lobbyists in Fracking Policy Development

The British Columbia Ministry of Energy was designated a “lead agency” in a backroom collaboration with Alberta and Saskatchewan to address water concerns for the province’s rapidly expanding shale gas industry. The New West Partnership, an undisclosed collaboration between Canada's three western provinces to expedite shale gas extraction, has held four secret meetings since July 2011 to discuss water issues related to fracking, according to a leaked briefing note, released today by the BC Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA).

The leaked document, including an attached directive, outlines the group’s strategies to streamline gas production across the West while minimizing public and stakeholder involvement. The partnership project, which is aimed to design streamlined policy regarding gas extraction including the controversial technique fracking, is also posed to curtail public concern with “proactive” public relations campaigns that will respond to the “ill-informed campaigns” of environmental NGOs, public media and local communities. 

The Project Charter outlines the New West Partnership’s intentions to manage public opinion with ‘consistent messages’ regarding environmental concerns which are “potentially problematic” for shale gas development. Despite the group’s pretense to stakeholder transparency and “enhanced communication,” the only external body consulted so far is Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). According to the BCTWA press release, the internal meetings held by provincial regulators and government officials included three unregistered lobbyists representing CAPP, prompting a complaint from the Alberta Federation of Labour.  
Thu, 2011-07-21 09:42Brendan DeMelle
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NY Times Editorial Urges Obama Administration To Reject Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

The New York Times editorial today calls on the State Department and President Obama to reject the disastrous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which it correctly labels the “wrong pipeline for the wrong oil.”

The NYT editors point to the environmental impacts of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, noting the destruction it would cause to Canada’s boreal forests, the threats to Midwest drinking water supplies from inevitable spills and accidents, and the climate impacts of supporting the extraction of the dirtiest oil on the planet.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department is correctly called to account for its abysmal attempts at drafting an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, which the EPA has labeled “insufficient” both times it has reviewed the document.

In a clear nod to the intense lobbying efforts of the pipeline’s proponents, the Times urges Clinton’s State Department to judge “the pipeline on the merits, not because of politics or pressure from the Canadian government, big oil and the industry’s friends in Congress.”

Read the rest of the Times’ concise and necessary criticism of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline: “Wrong Pipeline, Wrong Assessment” at the Times’ website.

Fri, 2011-05-27 13:10Emma Pullman
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Documents Reveal Canada's Secret 'Oil Sands Team' in Europe

DeSmog has helped to document the Canadian government’s extensive efforts in Europe to kill climate change legislation targeting the Alberta tar sands. In a major development today, official documents obtained though an Access to Information request by the Dominion newspaper exposed a nefarious “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy” that is much more coordinated than previously understood. 

According to Martin Lukacs at the Dominion Paper, the Canadian government has carried out a secret plan to boost investment and keep world markets open for Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil. Their strategies include collaboration with major oily allies to aggressively undermine European environmental measures.

Thu, 2011-04-21 12:00Emma Pullman
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Koch Industries Coached Own Employees On How To Vote In November Election

The Nation magazine has revealed that Koch Industries sent a letter to most of its 50,000 employees before the U.S. midterm elections in November 2010 advising them on whom to vote for. In “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” Mark Ames and Mike Elk expose the urgent “election packet” [PDF] sent to tens of thousands of Koch employees complete with ample libertarian reading materials instructions and a list of eligible vote-worthy (conservative) candidates. 

As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the letter warns employees them
of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise. 

This story raises alarming concerns about corporations’ ability to influece the ways in which their employees vote. According to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, Koch is entirely within its legal right to pressure people in this manner because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Wed, 2011-04-06 17:38Brendan DeMelle
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Koch Industries' Lobbying Curtain Lifted By Center For Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity has an in-depth look today at Koch Industries’ “Web of Influence” in Washington, revealing the immense growth in Koch’s spending on lobbyists and influence peddling over the last few years. As the CPI investigation notes, the Kochtopus’s lobbying army has its tentacles wrapped around all kinds of issues, not just its core oil business, but its wide-ranging stakes in everything from Canadian tar sands to ethanol to toxic chemicals to financial regulation (or preserving the lack thereof).

The CPI report lifts the veil on a few individual Koch lobbyists, notably Gregory Zerzan, a name that nobody outside Washington would recognize, yet who has had tremendous impact on the Hill as a Koch toady.

As the report notes:

“The money that Koch (pronounced “coke”) has spent on lobbying in Washington has soared in recent years, from $857,000 in 2004 to $20 million in 2008. The Kochs then spent another $20.5 million over the next two years to influence federal policy, as the company’s lobbyists and officials sought to mold, gut or kill more than 100 prospective bills or regulations.”

Check out the rest of the report over at the CPI website. It’s a great display of the kind of transparency needed in Washington, which remains overrun with lobbyists despite President Obama’s campaign pledge to limit their influence over federal policymaking. 

With the huge influx of Koch money into lobbying and campaign contributions - thanks to the democracy-destroying Citizens United decision - it will be hard to have an honest debate about much of anything in Congress. Polluter money prevails, for the time being, so it’s important to know which dirty money purveyors to pin the blame on for the deterioration of our democracy, public health and the environment. These days, the Koch brothers are Exhibit A.

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