The lobbying and cronyism scandal centered on the State Department’s review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline intensified today after researchers at the DeSmogBlog found that a broad array of additional pipeline lobbyists have close ties to Secretary of State Clinton.
As a result, the Freedom of Information Act request that resulted in the publication of emails between State Department officials and TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott was amended to include a request for communications with the additional lobbyists, according to the public interest groups that filed the initial FOIA request.
“The tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott,” Brendan DeMelle wrote in a memo describing the DeSmogBlog’s findings. “Lobbyists with strong ties to Secretary Clinton are spread out over three firms, including one that was the largest single source of funds of any corporate entity to Clinton’s 2008 presidential run.”
According to Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International—the groups that, represented by Earthjustice, filed the initial FOIA request—the DeSmogBlog findings led to the decision to expand that request. The groups are asking the State Department to release all documents pertaining to interactions between the department and employees of lobbying firms McKenna Long & Aldridge, Bryan Cave LLP and DLA PIPER, as well as TransCanada. The original FOIA request focused narrowly on correspondence with Elliott, TransCanada’s lead Washington, D.C. lobbyist who was formerly a high-ranking Hillary Clinton campaign aide.
“Our Freedom of Information Act led to the release of emails that provide troubling evidence of pro-pipeline bias at the State Department,” said Center for International Environmental Law President and CEO Carroll Muffett. “The State Department’s obstructionist tactics and lack of transparency in response to our first request must not be repeated. It should immediately release documents that pertain to the amended request.”
Two of the lobbyists named on the FOIA, Gordon Giffin with McKenna, Long & Aldridge and James Blanchard with DLA PIPER, were fundraising bundlers for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. DLA PIPER was also the largest single corporate source of employee and PAC contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The campaign connections extend to President Obama. Jeff Berman, a lobbyist listed on Bryan Cave’s Keystone XL lobbying account was director of delegate selection in Obama’s primary campaign and was called the “unsung hero” of his victory.
“The State Department has a legal obligation to make its communications with these lobbyists public,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Sarah Burt. “And we intend to do what we can to ensure the law is followed.”
“By now it is clear that oil industry influence peddlers rather than scientific facts and public input are driving the State Department,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy director at Friends of the Earth. “While we still have more to learn about the extent of lobbyist influence, it is already clear that President Obama cannot afford to trust the State Department to make the pipeline decision.”