Big Energy’s Conspiracy with Attorneys General

Former Va. Atty. Gen. Miller --toady for Big Energy

Former Va. Atty. Gen. Miller –toady for Big Energy

By Peter Galuszka

What seems to be strong opposition to a host of initiatives by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to curtail carbon and other forms of pollution is no mere coincidence.

According to a deeply reported story in Sunday’s New York Times, some state attorneys general, most of them Republicans, are part of what seems to be a covert conspiracy to oppose carbon containment rules in letters ghost-written by energy firms.

And, there’s a big Virginia connection in former Democratic Atty. Gen. Andrew P. Miller and George Mason University which have been bankrolled by conservative and Big Energy money for years.

The cabal has drawn its modus operandi from the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by the ultra-right, oil-rich Koch Brothers of Kansas. In that case, ALEC prepares “templates” of nearly identical legislation that fits the laissez-faire market and anti-government and regulation principles held dear by the energy and other big industries. Many marquee-name corporations such as Pepsi, McDonald’s and Procter & Gamble have dropped their ALEC membership  after public outcries.

In the case of the attorneys general, big petroleum firms like Devon Energy Corporation of Oklahoma draft letters opposing proposals that might hurt their profits such as ones to regulate methane, which can be a dangerous and polluting result of hydraulic fracking for natural gas. The Times notes that Oklahoma Atty. Gen. E. Scott Pruitt then took Devon’s letter and, almost-word-for-word, submitted it in his “comments” opposing EPA’s proposed rules on regulating fracking and methane.

The secretive group involves a great deal of interplay involving the Republican Governor’s Association which, of course, helps channel big bucks campaign contribution to acceptable, pro-business attorneys general. In 2006 and 2010, Greg Abbott of Texas got more than $2.4 million from the group. Former Virginia Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli got $174,5638 during his 2009 campaign.

One not-so-strange bedfellow is former Virginia Atty. Gen. Andrew P. Miller who was in office from 1970 to 1977 and is now 82 years-old. He’s been very business promoting energy firms. As the Times writes:

Andrew P. Miller, a former attorney general of Virginia, has in the years since he left office built a practice representing major energy companies before state attorneys general, including Southern Company and TransCanada, the entity behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The New York Times collected emails Mr. Miller sent to attorneys general in several states.

“Mr. Miller approached Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma in April 2012, with the goal of helping to encourage Mr. Pruitt, who then had been in office about 18 months, to take an even greater role in serving as a national leader of the effort to block Obama administration environmental regulations.

“Mr. Miller worked closely with Mr. Pruitt, and representatives from an industry-funded program at George Mason, to organize a summit meeting in Oklahoma City that would assemble energy industry lobbyists, lawyers and executives to have closed-door discussions with attorneys general. The companies that were invited, such as Devon Energy, were in most cases also major campaign donors to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

“Mr. Miller asked [West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey] to help push legislation opposing an Obama administration plan to regulate carbon emissions from existing coal-burning power plants. Legislation nearly identical to what Mr. Miller proposed was introduced in the West Virginia Legislature and then passed. Mr. Morrisey disputed any suggestion that he played a role.”

Not only that, but George Mason has an energy study center that is bankrolled by Big Energy and tends to produce policy studies of what the energy firms want. It also has the Mercatus Center, a right-wing think tank bankrolled by the Koch Brothers.

So, when you see what seems to be a tremendous outcry against badly needed regulations to curb carbon emissions and make sure that fracking is safe, it may not be an accident. And, it comes from attorneys general who should be protecting the interests of average residents in their states instead of being toadies for Big Energy.

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15 responses to “Big Energy’s Conspiracy with Attorneys General

  1. With proper disclosure, I don’t see the problem. The environmentalists give to candidates and lobby. We need more disclosure of lobbyist contacts. Who is meeting with whom and what are they saying? But the system was designed to accommodate different interest groups advocating what they perceive to be in their best interests.

  2. Twenty plus years ago as a political operative I went through training with GOPAC, Newt Gingrich’s organization. You may disagree with Gingrich on things but he’s smart. Gingrich at that point had analyzed the effective networking on the Left and the various ties between office holders, unions, academics, non-profit groups, the mainstream media, etc. And he indicated the Right needed to learn and copy and if possible improve on the tactics.

    Looks like they have. Check out the Fox News ratings.

    Sauce for the goose, Peter. I am a huge advocate for disclosure, and would support closing the reporting loopholes that groups on all sides of the spectrum love to exploit. But what is going on here is nothing new and mirrors the tactics of the proponents. Does anybody really think it is an accident that the nightly TV news just about every day has a story about some weather disaster? Whatever happened that day is always the worst storm, flood, drought, cold, heat, etc. and a harbinger of Worse To Come.

  3. disclosure does not work and those that advocate it – know it.

    this stinks to high heaven. Industry folks are more than free to make public their views and their advocacies but emailing Govt elected and regulators directly – with exact words of legislation and regulation – is beyond the pale.

    it’s wrong and it really does damage our form of government and will lead to worse damage to govt as more and more people will no longer trust it – on either side.

    is that what we really want?

    from now on – we’re going to see more and more FOIAs and I predict we’re going to see more legislation to exempt the kinds of communication between industry and govt that ought not to be happening in the first place, much less in Secret.

    The Koch boys have no respect at all for rule of law – they think THEY are the rule of law.. apparently!

  4. and for those of us who may not remember what the line between government and industry should be – a reminder:

    ” Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under color of law or involves trading in influence.”

    Most folks would consider the industry writing legislation for legislators – who are supposed to represent citizens equally – as not something you fix by “disclosure”.

    Some folks here might remember just how Bob and Maureen McDonnell viewed the difference between disclosure and actions…

    I would submit that providing word-for-word legislation – is not fixable by “disclosing” it – although I do think some elected might well lose their seats over it if the full extent of it is disclosed.

    So my proposal is that every elected should have his/her full calendar online 24/7 – and minutes be kept of each conversation – and those available online – no later than on the same day they occurred.

    technology is ultimately going to trip these fools up anyhow.. They live a life of denial on these things – look at the McDonnells…

    • Interest groups have been working with elected officials and government agencies to draft legislation and regulations forever. Under the Constitution, everyone has the right to petition government for the redress of grievances. I hope you aren’t arguing that only groups who agree with you have a right to participate.

      A number of years ago, the law firm I was at worked with numerous state AG offices to craft language for submission to DoJ and the federal district court for inclusion in the Microsoft antitrust decree. We even provided input to the European Union’s efforts to regulate Microsoft. I know Microsoft’s attorneys had similar meetings as they tried to influence law enforcement officials on what should and should not be in the consent decree. So long as the procedural rules are being followed, why is this wrong?

      We all know the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations work to influence legislation and regulations. Should they be barred? And if they can participate (and they should), why can’t groups holding a different view also participate in the process?

      Years ago, when I worked in Iowa I drafted major sections of a rewrite of the state’s utility regulation law on behalf of the telecom industry. There was similar input from consumer groups. I’d see their drafts; they’d see mine. They would redraft mine; I would redraft theirs. I met with legislators from both Parties to discuss the bills and to persuade them as to the wisdom of my approach. I’m sure other people did as well to sell their views. The legislature passed a law that contained much, but not all, of my drafting. Who should write the legislation?

      • ” Interest groups have been working with elected officials and government agencies to draft legislation and regulations forever. Under the Constitution, everyone has the right to petition government for the redress of grievances. I hope you aren’t arguing that only groups who agree with you have a right to participate.”

        no.. I don’t think they should be doing it in secrecy and I don’t think most environmental and citizen interest groups do it in secrecy. They actually engage the public and try to get support usually.

        “A number of years ago, the law firm I was at worked with numerous state AG offices to craft language for submission to DoJ and the federal district court for inclusion in the Microsoft antitrust decree. We even provided input to the European Union’s efforts to regulate Microsoft. I know Microsoft’s attorneys had similar meetings as they tried to influence law enforcement officials on what should and should not be in the consent decree. So long as the procedural rules are being followed, why is this wrong?”

        it’s wrong if it is outside the eye of the public … in the courts is fine.

        “We all know the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations work to influence legislation and regulations. Should they be barred? And if they can participate (and they should), why can’t groups holding a different view also participate in the process?”

        they do their advocacy almost totally in front of the public – they try to get the public to get involved…

        “Years ago, when I worked in Iowa I drafted major sections of a rewrite of the state’s utility regulation law on behalf of the telecom industry. There was similar input from consumer groups. I’d see their drafts; they’d see mine. They would redraft mine; I would redraft theirs. I met with legislators from both Parties to discuss the bills and to persuade them as to the wisdom of my approach. I’m sure other people did as well to sell their views. The legislature passed a law that contained much, but not all, of my drafting. Who should write the legislation?”

        TMT – are you purposely evading the issue here?

        The Sierra Club does not write legislation and give it to legislators in secret and give them large sums of money view a PAC so the money is effectively laundered… The National Sierra club does not have big conferences at resorts and cover all expenses and send the Legislators home with pre-written legislation in their briefcases…

        you say you support disclosure – but it’s not exactly a game changer for your support of the current status quo – right? it’s sort of a “nice to have” instead… I think it’s a hair from outright corruption.

        • Larry, do you really think environmental groups are not involved with the Obama administration, including the EPA, when CO2 regs were being drafted. Or members of Congress on environmental legislation? What about Tom Streyer and his contributions? Are you claiming there have been no undisclosed meetings with environmental lobbyists, labor unions, and the like? The Sierra Club has a PAC. The League of Conservation Voters does too. How about labor union spending on elections? Am I really expected to believe these groups never slipped a draft of a bill into legislators’ hands?

          You seem to be arguing for content-based restrictions? That scares me.

          • “Larry, do you really think environmental groups are not involved with the Obama administration, including the EPA, when CO2 regs were being drafted.”

            any more or less when the GOP is in charge and uses industry people?

            is that your justification for using secret industry influence when the GOP is not directly employing them when they are in charge?

            “Or members of Congress on environmental legislation? What about Tom Streyer and his contributions? Are you claiming there have been no undisclosed meetings with environmental lobbyists, labor unions, and the like? ”

            compared to what? industry? are you daft TMT? Where is the environmental equivalent of ALEC ?

            “The Sierra Club has a PAC. The League of Conservation Voters does too. How about labor union spending on elections? Am I really expected to believe these groups never slipped a draft of a bill into legislators’ hands?”

            okay you show me the PAC then and how much money it controls and hides from donors to legislators.

            I challenge you. put up or.. fess up..

            You seem to be arguing for content-based restrictions? That scares me.

            what scares me is the totally out of balance ideas you have including justifying secrecy of industry influencing legislators – as a rule – as a common pattern.. as business as usual – as in ALEC and all expenses paid resort “conferences”.

            TMT -you’re the one complaining all the time about MWAA and TYSON secret discussions .. right?

            do you have a scintilla of proportional perspective here or is it all or nothing, anything goes as long as it is for things you agree with – but then when the tables are turned and your ox is gored – it’s wrong?

          • Larry, if you have read my posts over the years, I have supported more disclosure from everyone, most especially if they are being paid to represent someone or some entity. But I see all interest groups as “interest groups.” I think ALEC and the Sierra Club should be held to the same standard. I think Tom Streyer and the Koch Brothers should be treated the same.

            If there is a law and evidence someone or some entity has violated it, I support an investigation and the imposition of sanctions as appropriate.

            Your position reminds me of that of Senator Leahy, with whom I had the privilege of having lunch years ago. He was rattling on about the impropriety of businesses taking FCC staff members to lunch, but, in response to my question, informed me there was nothing wrong with a lobbyist taking his staff to lunch.

            I don’t see the Sierra Club being a whit different from ALEC and vice versa.

            And I am also troubled by the idea that we allow the media to try to influence elections and legislation, while regulating other groups doing the same thing. Why aren’t WSJ editorials in favor of Romney or WaPo editorials in favor of Obama campaign contributions?

          • ” Larry, if you have read my posts over the years, I have supported more disclosure from everyone, most especially if they are being paid to represent someone or some entity. But I see all interest groups as “interest groups.” I think ALEC and the Sierra Club should be held to the same standard. I think Tom Streyer and the Koch Brothers should be treated the same.”

            they’re not the same TMT and you know it. The Sierra club is Nowhere the size of the industry groups, does not have 1/100th the money, does not sponsor lavish all-expense paid conferences at resorts – and does not work in secret – their legislative goals are on their websites and they get in contact with members to make calls and donate to the cause.

            How you can consider the two as “equal” is just ideological guy.

            “If there is a law and evidence someone or some entity has violated it, I support an investigation and the imposition of sanctions as appropriate.”

            law? do you know what corruption is? Do you think meeting in secret and/or having secret meetings and emails is “legal”? How about ethical?

            “Your position reminds me of that of Senator Leahy, with whom I had the privilege of having lunch years ago. He was rattling on about the impropriety of businesses taking FCC staff members to lunch, but, in response to my question, informed me there was nothing wrong with a lobbyist taking his staff to lunch.”

            I’m not Leahy guy – and I do not confuse the difference between industry groups sending people to conferences at resorts – all expenses – and buying lunch – which is illegal if it exceeds $25 and when I worked for the Feds – we were told – “Don’t do it under any circumstances – period”.

            “I don’t see the Sierra Club being a whit different from ALEC and vice versa.”

            then you are willfully ignorant because you KNOW they are no where the same in size and heft – in numbers or money… you’re saying that goliath is the same size as David… How about I list out for you all the different industry groups and you list out all the enviro groups and see how they compare?

            “And I am also troubled by the idea that we allow the media to try to influence elections and legislation, while regulating other groups doing the same thing. Why aren’t WSJ editorials in favor of Romney or WaPo editorials in favor of Obama campaign contributions? ”

            TMT – you’re a lawyer guy and you’re asking about free speech ???? Jesus

          • Well said, TMT, and LarryG, I think it gets your goat to hear it. Anyone who thinks the Sierra Club doesn’t act like a bully when it can, just like Big Energy, hasn’t been around the Hill. I don’t like a lot of lobbyists but they do what they have to do so long as the doors are open for them.

          • my goat? nope. I never doubted for a minute that the SC cannot be a forceful advocate – but that’s different than meeting in secret, writing secret legislation and inviting elected and appointed to all expense paid “conferences” in resorts.

            where is the proportionality?

            and for the record – I’d put the very same strict rules on EVERYONE – as in EVERYONE.

            The SC would have zero trouble complying… they even have separate organizations for lobbying and non-lobbying because – unlike the Tea Party guys – when they signed the IRS tax-exempt form – they meant it.

            The SC has an arm called EarthJustice which does much of their advocacy.

            but seriously guys – now I challenge you BOTH to go get a list of enviro-weenies and their money and let me go get the industry guys and their money and let’s compare.

            game?

      • and TMT – YOU do not KNOW what these energy companies are doing either ! and they often work against YOUR interests – and I’ve heard you complain about that many times… it’s totally odd for you to support more secrecy.

  5. re: ” The environmentalists give to candidates and lobby. ”

    They don’t do it in secrecy. They’re usually crystal clear about what they are lobbying for – it’s on their websites and they’re urging people to contact legislators . and they don’t have anywhere near the money that big business have – go look at VPAP…

    That’s far different from the way that ALEC and these other groups work – who are not dealing directly with the public and who are using money often comes from undisclosed sources – and given to PACs – and the PACs get “instructions” on what candidates to “forward” the money to…

    TMT -you confuse advocacies that you do not agree with – – with how the advocacies are carried out. Most environmental groups operate mostly in the sunlight – with the full view of the press and citizens and will quite modest sums of money involved ..

    these corporations operate largely in secret … because they must – if the public knew what they were actually doing – it would not play well.

    And if you set up disclosure laws – there will be convenients loopholes left open – like the ones the McDonnells were using..

    Finally, the folks who say they support disclosure – it’s not like they are really serious about it and make it a campaign issue or join a group and financially support it. I bet VPAP would love to have even a dollar from every guy who says he supports “disclosure”…

    so there is no raging ardor to really get disclosure.. just a convenient response.. and we move on… and these corporations are left unmolested to continue to – not just influence legislation – in secret – but to actually write the laws.. and regulations.. for folks like Bill Howell to put in the bill hopper right after he gets back from an ALEC soiree in Aspen or wherever.

    at some point – the smell of this is going to assault the tender noses of even those who think it’s “ok” if they “disclose”.

    In large part – we are one of the more corrupt states in the Union – not because of our legislators – it’s US… we are the ones that condone it.

  6. re: “the media is biased and “contributing” …

    beyond the free speech idea TMT – you’re one of the ones who complains about the media not getting to the root of stories .. not doing “good” investigative journalism… etc…

    so which is it? If they did a GOOD job of investigating the WRONG person or group – like the guys you support – would you consider that to be a “violation” of objective reporting and instead “contributing” to the other sides point of view?

    this sounds plenty mixed up… or perhaps I’m not clearly seeing what you are saying but at this point – it looks mixed up… self-contradicting…

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