The Empowerment Alliance

The Empowerment Alliance

Background

The Empowerment Alliance (TEA) is an anonymously funded 501(c)(4) nonprofit that launched on September 30, 2019 with the goal of fighting liberal policies, specifically the Green New Deal, and promoting natural gas. [1]

“The Green New Deal, as a national conversation, needs to be put in context with reality and facts. And in this era of hyperpartisan atmospherics, it's important that there be a balanced approach to this subject of America's energy independence and America's future as it relates to its economy and its environment,” Terry Holt, the group's spokesman and a partner at public relations firm HDMK, told E&E News. [1]

“America's natural gas supplies are its core national security asset. And in today's political environment, our natural resources are being pulled apart by this dynamic between energy versus the environment.” [1]

OpenSecrets data shows that HDMK's lobbying clients include large energy company Entergy, as well as Central Electric Power Cooperative, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association[13]

Former Republican National Committee executive and GOP operative James Nathanson will lead the group as its executive director. [2]

Holt said he wanted the group to be “a significant factor in the 2020 election,” Politico reported. The group's plans included running ads, engaging in “grassroots work,” reaching out to media, and possibly a future lobbying operation. [2]

The group's mission, according to its website, is to “secure America’s energy independence and, with it, Americans’ prosperity, freedom, and security.” TEA promises to “harness the power of American ingenuity, the tenets of our free market system, and the abundance of our nation’s natural gas supply to forge a more realistic, rational, and effective approach to energy consumption and environmental conservation than the risky tax scheme known as the 'Green New Deal.'” [8], [9]

Stance on Climate Change

One of The Empowerment Alliance's central points is promoting natural gas in reponse to “radical” proposals like the Green New Deal that call for phasing out all fossil fuel extraction. Reuters reported TEA “will fund advertising and research to advocate the use of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, in the runup to the U.S. presidential election in November of 2020.” [3]

As DeSmog reported in 2019, while natural gas has often been referred to as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner sources of energy — recent reports have shown that it cannot be part of any climate solution. A report from Oil Change International, Burning the Gas “Bridge Fuel” Myth: Why Gas is Not Clean, Cheap, or Necessary, highlights that there is no room for further fossil fuel development, including natural gas, within Paris Agreement goals. [4]

September 2019

The Empowerment Alliance's newly-launched website claims[8]

 “Natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels and can be used in many ways to help reduce the emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere.” […]

“Burning natural gas in the place of other fossil fuels emits fewer harmful pollutants, and an increased reliance on natural gas can potentially reduce the emission of many of these most harmful pollutants.

Natural gas can help to mitigate some of these environmental issues, including greenhouse gas emissions, pollution from transportation, industrial and electric generation emission, as well as smog and acid rain.”

In the group's initial press release, Jim Nathanson, Executive Director for TEA, said that renewable energy was not an option:

“There is simply not enough solar and wind infrastructure to fuel our growing economy or provide American businesses and consumers with affordable energy.”

Funding

Terry Holt declined to disclose the group's budget, claiming that revealing the funding sources would put them in harm's way: [1]

“Because of violence and trespassing and other criminal behavior, the Empowerment Alliance is going to protect its donors from that kind of risk,” he said. “We are offering donors this protection out of the concern that we would have should they come forward and the scrutiny of some of these eco-terrorists.”

The following is from The Empowerment Alliance's donation form[10]

“There are no limits on the amounts that may be contributed to The Empowerment Alliance, Inc. by an individual, corporation, union, or trade association.

The Empowerment Alliance’s policy is to not disclose its donors to the general public.

Contribution to The Empowerment Alliance, Inc. are not tax deductible.

Contributions to The Empowerment Alliance, Inc. do not count against an individual’s biennial aggregate contribution limit under the Federal Election Campaign Act, as amended.

The Empowerment Alliance, Inc. is not registered or operating as a political committee under federal, state or other applicable law.”

Key People

Terry Holt — TEA's spokesman and a partner at public relations and communications firm HDMK which will handle communications for the group. [1]

Holt was a senior communications strategist and spokesman for the 2000 and 2004 Bush/Cheney presidential campaigns. He has also worked as communications director for former Speaker John Boehner in the U.S. House of Representatives, and also for Budget Committee chairman John Kasich. In the Senate, he worked as press secretary on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Richard Lugar from Indiana. [5]

According to his profile at HDML, “Holt is also a veteran of the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.” Holt's partner at HDMK, Trent Duffy, worked under President George W. Bush in the White House for several years. [5]

James (Jim) Nathanson — Executive director. [2]

In 1988, Nathanson was the executive director of George Bush's presidential campaign in Ohio. He was deputy political director of the Republican National Committee. He was former visiting assistant professor of political science at at the State University of New York and also at Case Western Reserve University. According to a 1990 profile in The Baltimore Sun, “Nathanson also has assisted in the political campaigns of several past and present officeholders, from judges to governors, to congressmen. He is involved in fund-raising, community relations, campaign management, and political organization, analysis and communication for the Republican party.” [6], [7]

Actions

September 30, 2019

The Empowerment Alliance launched with the goal of fighting the Green New Deal and promoting natural gas. The Empowerment Alliance launched with the following video[1]

TEA's initial press release announced its stance against the Green New Deal: [11]

“The new 501c4 will engage national political leaders, the media, and voters with research and paid advertising, warning against the consequences of radical proposals that would devastate our country’s position as the world’s lone superpower and hurt millions of Americans at all income levels. “

 “The recent attack in Saudi Arabia shows that our enemies are getting more sophisticated and that America is still at risk from events overseas,” said Jim Nathanson, Executive Director for TEA. “But the Green New Deal and other ideas would make those attacks seem small by comparison, as they would weaken America and take us back to energy dependence. There is a better path.” 

Related Organizations

HDMK 

Terry Holt's firm, reportedly running communications for The Empowerment Alliance. [2]

According to data from OpenSecrets, HDMK has done lobbying for a number of electric utilities among other industries: [13]

Industry & Client 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Grand Total
Electric Utilities $40,000 $120,000 $95,000 $40,000 $200,000 $240,000 $240,000 $240,000 $1,215,000
Central Electric Power Cooperative $120,000 $160,000 $160,000 $160,000 $600,000
Entergy Corp $40,000 $47,500 $20,000 $80,000 $80,000 $80,000 $80,000 $427,500
National Rural Electric Coops Assn $40,000 $80,000 $47,500 $20,000 $0 $187,500
Insurance $0 $90,000 $0 $0 $0 $90,000
America's Health Insurance Plans $0 $90,000 $0 $0 $0 $90,000
Misc Mfg/Distrib $30,000 $30,000
Brambles Ltd $30,000 $30,000
Real Estate $90,000 $80,000 $70,000 $240,000
Interlease Inc $90,000 $80,000 $70,000 $240,000
Unknown Industry $5,000 $40,000 $20,000 $65,000
Advanced Scientific Concepts $5,000 $40,000 $20,000 $65,000
Grand Total $135,000 $330,000 $185,000 $70,000 $200,000 $240,000 $240,000 $240,000 $1,640,000

Contact & Address

According to the group's donation form: [10]

The Empowerment Alliance, Inc.

155 East Main Street, Suite 260, Lexington, KY 40507.

(202) 738-7796

Tax ID# 84-2875437

That same address appears to be listed for the law firm Embry Merritt Shaffar Womack, PLLC (EMSW). [12]

Social Media

Resources

  1. Timothy Cama. “Group launches to protect gas, fight Green New Deal,” E&E News, September 30, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  2. Theodoric Meyer. “New nonprofit will fight Green New Deal, promote natural gas,” Politico, September 30, 2019. Archived September 30, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/1nqn0

  3. U.S. group forms to defend natural gas against anti-fossil fuel measures,” Reuters, September 30, 2019. Archived September 30, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/6oIHE

  4. Justin Mikulka. “It’s Time to Stop Calling Natural Gas a ‘Bridge Fuel’ to a Safe Climate, Says New Report,” DeSmog, June 3, 2019.

  5. Firm Leadership,” HDMK. Archived September 30, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/e4vkE

  6. Paul Taylor. “GOP Strategist 'Carpet-Bombs' Buckeye State,” The Washington Post, November 4, 1988. Archived October 1, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/WShNM

  7. GOP DIRECTOR TO SPEAK,” The Baltimore Sun, December 2, 1990. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/YVQl4

  8. Today's Most Important ISSUES,” The Empowerment Alliance. Archived October 1, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/9Dp4g

  9. About The EMPOWERMENT ALLIANCE,” The Empowerment Alliance. Archived October 1, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/7nQL9

  10. Make a Donation,” Politics.raisethemoney.com. Accessed September 30, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/Fmtg3

  11. (Press Release). “New Advocacy Group Offers Smart Approach to Energy Consumption and Environmental Conservation; The Empowerment Alliance Launches to Secure America’s Energy Independence Through Natural Gas,” The Empowerment Alliance, September 30, 2019. Archived October 1, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/WMZou

  12. Contact Us,” EMSW. Archived October 1, 2019.

  13. HDMK,” Opensecrets. Accessed October 1, 2019.

Other Resources