The subject of an MSNBC exclusive is Alex Flint – a man who has been through the revolving door a number of times – and the inherent conflicts of interest that stems from congressional staffers going back and forth between Capitol Hill and K Street.
Most recently, Flint left his job as majority staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he was a key player in legislation that provided billions in subsidies to the nuclear industry, to become the chief lobbyist for the industry’s largest trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Flint was hired for the Senate post in 2003 after spending several years as a lobbyist representing a number of large firms with deep interests in the nuclear power field, as well as the NEI. Flint’s boss on the committee was Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., an unabashed booster of the nuclear power industry who has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from employees of the companies that Flint represents.
As a lobbyist, Flint was himself a frequent donor to Domenici’s campaigns before being rehired by the senator. And many of Flint’s qualifications to lobby for the nuclear industry in the first place were acquired through earlier jobs working for Domenici as a staff assistant, legislative aide and clerk of an energy subcommittee chaired by the senator.
Nobody alleges that Flint did anything illegal. Neither the law nor Senate rules prohibited Flint from leaving the Energy Committee post after three years in which he helped develop policy and shepherd legislation on nuclear issues and going directly to work as NEI’s senior vice president for governmental affairs.
Flint did, however, remain at his post on Domenici’s committee staff for two months after taking the job at NEI. Earlier in the year Flint served as “a key adviser to Sen. Domenici during Senate consideration and passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.” The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained $4.3 billion worth of tax breaks to the nuclear industry, nearly twice as much as any other industry received.
Of course, the revolving door problem is not new. Just take the case of Philip Cooney the former chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney previously worked as a lobbyist and “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute. He then went onto cause a bit of controversy last year:
A White House official who once led the oil industry’s fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.
In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, he crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.”
Cooney resigned after this information came to light and went to work for, none other than, ExxonMobil as a government relations executive.