- The New York Times picks up the story of Alan Mollohan's (D-WV) farm on Cheat River. Mollohan "acknowledged yesterday that he had on several occasions steered earmarks to federal agencies to finance contracts with his friend's company, FMW Composite Systems. ... But Mr. Mollohan said that he was not FMW's only 'Congressional sponsor' and that he saw no conflict of interest between his personal real estate purchase and the company's federal contracts." Congressmen, act now, and sponsor a campaign donor today.
- Tom DeLay's (R-TX) former chief of staff and now powerful Republican lobbyist Susan Hirshmann is profiled in the Legal Times.
- We have another editorial bashing the House's attempt at lobbying and ethics "reform", this time from the New York Times.
"The proposal is a cadaverous pretense that Congress has learned the corrupting lessons of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced superlobbyist; Representative Tom DeLay, the fallen majority leader; and Duke Cunningham, the imprisoned former congressman. It makes a laughingstock of the pious promises of last January to ban privately financed junketeering by lawmakers. Instead, these adventures in quid pro quo lawmaking would be suspended only temporarily, safe to blossom again after the next election."
- And if you thought those gas prices were going to go down I hope you have a few million dollars to lobby Congress. The Hill reports that the oil and gas industry are preparing to throw $30 million into a "grassroots" campaign to lobby Congress and improve their image among the American people.
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Jack Abramoff will be sentenced today in a Florida court.
- The Washington Post follows up on the report issued by the Minority Office of the House Committee on Government Reform on contracting abuses by the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root. According to the Post, “Pentagon auditors have challenged $45 million worth of company costs, out of $365 million in charges that were reviewed. … In one case, the government's contracting officials reported that KBR attempted to inflate its cost estimates by paying a supplier more than it was due. In another, KBR cut its cost estimates in half after it was pressed on its true expenses. In a third, KBR billed for work performed by the Iraqi oil ministry.”
- The Government Accountability Office released a report warning that, “Incentives for oil and gas companies that drill in the Gulf of Mexico will cost the federal government at least $20 billion over the next 25 years,” according to the New York Times. The government could also lose “$80 billion in revenue … over the same period if oil and gas companies won a new lawsuit that seeks a further reduction in their royalty payments.” The GAO notes that “the Interior Department, which runs the offshore leasing program, had never carried out a ‘robust’ cost-benefit analysis of the original program or of incentives added in the last five years.”
- Raw Story reports that a biography of Jack Abramoff prepared by his lawyers as a plea for leniency states that the lobbyist is ashamed of the profanity used in a 1980s anti-communist movie he produced titled “Red Scorpion.” Abramoff, however, is not ashamed of making the movie in South African-occupied Namibia or from using money and assistance provided by the apartheid regime of South Africa. Cast and crew members also allege that many of them were never paid for their work.
- The Cincinnati Post reports that, “A federal appeals court Tuesday ordered a Washington congressman [Rep. Jim McDermott (D)] to pay West Chester Republican John Boehner $700,000 for leaking an illegally taped phone conversation between Boehner and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.”
- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency was the featured speaker at a Colorado fundraiser for Rep. Rick O’Donnell (R-CO). The Denver Post reports that, “The guests included representatives from El Paso Natural Gas, the Colorado Mining Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association. El Paso and member companies of the two associations have activities that come under federal environmental regulations.”
- The revolving door continues to spin as TNR’s The Plank reports that former Senator Howard Baker, who, until last year, was our ambassador to Japan, has registered to lobby for “Toshiba Corporation on ‘Consultations with eh [sic] appropriate members of the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government, and the applicable agencies on CFIUS and antitrust matters, all related to Toshiba Corporation's acquisition of Westinghouse Electric Company.’”
- The Hill reports that House Republicans have vowed to pass campaign finance laws restricting donations to 527-organizations.
When Congress passed incentives in the 1990s for drilling and exploration by oil and companies supporters claimed that there would be no cost to the taxpayer. This, of course, was not the case as today’s New York Times report indicates: “the Bush administration confirmed that it expected the government to waive about $7 billion in royalties over the next five years, even though the industry incentive was expressly conceived of for times when energy prices were low. And that number could quadruple to more than $28 billion if a lawsuit filed last week challenging one of the program's remaining restrictions proves successful.” The story of how the federal government wound up providing massive taxpayer funded incentives to one of the most lucrative industries involves a bill passed by legislators riddled with ambiguities, crucial errors by midlevel bureaucrats under President Bill Clinton, a Bush administration seeking greater incentives for the oil and gas industry, and “Republican lawmakers who wanted to do even more.” While the Clinton administration missteps appear to be “a massive screw-up,” according to a former Energy Department official, the Bush administration has continuously sought to provide as many incentives to the oil and gas industry as possible. President George W. Bush is the largest recipient of campaign cash from the oil and gas industry, with totals topping $4.5 million. Recently resigned Interior Secretary Gale Norton, a major proponent of incentives to the oil and gas industry, founded a non-profit before she joined Bush’s cabinet, the Council for Republican Environmental Advocacy, which is heavily funded by oil and gas, mining, and logging interests.
Idaho Governor Dick Kempthorne (R) was chosen by President Bush to be the next Secretary of the Interior, according to the Washington Post. Kempthorne will replace Gale Norton, a highly controversial Interior secretary who consistently sided with corporate interests over environmental concerns and became entwined in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Kempthorne is already being hailed as an equally controversial choice. He received over $200,000 from energy and natural resources companies during his Senate career and backs oil and gas industry wish list items like drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve and offshore drilling. Kempthorne also fought to “open national forests to logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling.”Continue reading
ExxonMobil posted the single largest quarterly and annual profit raking in over $10 billion in the fourth quarter of last year while the annual total topped $36 billion, according to the New York Times. The annual revenue for the oil and gas behemoth was $371 billion, nearly $100 billion more than the entire revenue for the oil producing nation Saudi Arabia. ExxonMobil is not proudly displaying these record numbers as public opinion towards oil and gas companies has turned sour after a year of high prices at the pump. Recently a tax increase of $5 billion has been proposed for the oil and gas industry although it is strongly opposed by President Bush, the industry’s number one recipient of campaign funds over the past decade. Congressional Republicans fear a backlash from voters after placing $2 billion of tax cuts for the oil and gas industry into the 2005 energy bill.Continue reading