NY Times: Energy firms in secretive alliance with Attorneys General; Oklahoma Attorney General’s emails show partnership with energy companies

A very disturbing article from the New York Times about energy industry and Attorneys General working together collaboratively. An earlier investigative article dealt with lobbying
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

The language being used in these relationships and from these officials includes “rule of law” and “constitutional crisis”, defined in a way quite different from the public.

“The founders recognized that power concentrated in a few is a bad thing,” Mr. Pruitt said.

Who are “a few”, Mr. Pruitt? According to him, it’s “a very dysfunctional, distrustful political environment” that causes people to question his actions, not the enormous conflict-of-interest.

Thankfully, there are Attorneys General who don’t go along with this pattern, but it’s up to the public to stay informed and make sure their officials are representing them, not special interests.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/us/politics/energy-firms-in-secretive-alliance-with-attorneys-general.html?_r=0

By Eric Lipton, December 6, 2014

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority — 27 — of attorneys general’s offices.

The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors.

But the attorneys general are also working collectively. Democrats for more than a decade have teamed up with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to use the court system to impose stricter regulation. But never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court.

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration.

“We are living in the midst of a constitutional crisis,” Mr. Pruitt told energy industry lobbyists and conservative state legislators at a conference in Dallas in July, after being welcomed with a standing ovation. “The trajectory of our nation is at risk and at stake as we respond to what is going on.”

Mr. Pruitt has responded aggressively, and with a lot of helping hands. Energy industry lobbyists drafted letters for him to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, The Times found.

Industries that he regulates have also joined him as plaintiffs in court challenges, a departure from the usual role of the state attorney general, who traditionally sues companies to force compliance with state law.

Energy industry lobbyists have also distributed draft legislation to attorneys general and asked them to help push it through state legislatures to give the attorneys general clearer authority to challenge the Obama regulatory agenda, the documents show.

“It is quite new,” said Paul Nolette, a political-science professor at Marquette University and the author of the forthcoming book “Federalism on Trial: State Attorneys General and National Policy Making in Contemporary America.” “The scope, size and tenor of these collaborations is, without question, unprecedented.”

And it is an emerging practice that several former attorneys general say threatens the integrity of the office.

For more of this lengthy and important article, including some of the documents obtained by the Times,
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/us/politics/energy-firms-in-secretive-alliance-with-attorneys-general.html?_r=0

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