A consulting firm whose principals include Mary Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, appears responsible for the bulk of the near-record breaking number of comments received by the State Department in recent weeks in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to analysis based on Sunlight’s Docket Wrench tool.
Of the nearly 125,000 comments filed, at least 98,000 — about eight out of ten — contain similar pro-pipeline language: “The pipeline will provide much needed, good paying jobs for our economy while ensuring our country’s energy and national security.” These comments come from individuals listing “BKM Strategies,” as the originating organization. BKM Strategies is housed at the same Fairfax office complex as Alliance for Freedom, a nonprofit “social welfare” organization on which Cheney serves as director along with Kara Ahern and Barry Bennett. Tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and made available by CitizenAudit.org, a Sunlight grantee, report that the trio are also members of BKM Strategies, LLC. A call to the Alliance’s offices was not returned.
The Alliance for Freedom is part of an interconnecting group of conservative nonprofits that have dived into politics in recent years; in 2010, the group reported giving $4 million to another 501(c)4 organization, Alliance for America’s Future, whose directors include Ahern and Bennett. That same year, Cheney and Ahern also established a super PAC, Partnership for America’s Future, which is not currently active.
To put the number of comments in perspective, the 125,000 comments logged by the State Department on the Keystone pipeline puts it within shouting distance of the 143,000 comments received by the IRS for its proposal to define dark money political groups. That, in turn, ranks second only to a proposed health insurance mandate on birth control among regulations drawing the most comments in recent years.
But the pro-Keystone pipeline comments are at the top of the list when it comes to choreographed writing campaigns, one of the devices used to influence regulators. The cluster of similarly worded comments organized via BKM Strategies is the largest Docket Wrench has ever identified.
In other news from Sunlight’s influence trackers:
Legal to lobby: There are few committees more coveted than Ways and Means for lawmakers seeking to boost their campaign cash take–and for staffers who wish to burnish their resumes. Over the past week, three former staffers from the tax-writing panel became legal to lobby their former House colleagues, having completed the one year prohibition following their employment there. One, Dan Elling, is already a registered lobbyist for Alston & Bird, representing several hospitals and health trade associations. His official bio at the firm touts as a GOP staff director for the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee in his role as a senior policy advisor to the firm’s Health Care Group. The two other former staffers, both Democrats, are working in government: Sonja Nesbit is lobbyist for the department of Health and Human Services, and Debra Curtis on policy for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange. Of 17 former Ways and Means staffers subject to one-year prohibition identified by Sunlight, at least eight work for law or lobbying firms or corporations, but only four have officially registered to lobby. Credit: Post Employment Tracker.
Food safety: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the comment period for the environmental impact statement for a proposed rule on produce safety, one of a suite of seven food safety regulations the feds have been slow to implement. Late last month the FDA signed a consent decree agreeing to finalize all the rules by mid-2016, more than five years after the passage of law meant to help prevent outbreaks like the listeria-infected Colorado cantaloupe that left 33 people dead. Credit: Scout.
Also seen: Paleo market? New Zealand Beef + Lamb updated its foreign agent registration filings (Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker); It’s that time of year: three dozen lobbying registrations for budget and appropriations filed in last 30 days (Lobbying Registration Tracker); seven state bills concerning assault weapons introduced so far this month in Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois and California (Open States); A sure sign of an election: political ads flooding Tampa, Florida televisions–55 over past week–as voters went to polls to choose a successor to the late Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young in the state’s 13th district (Political Ad Sleuth); veterenarians don’t like it: proposed bill to open up pet prescriptions to competition is most viewed on Open Congress.