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Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

On her show last month, Rachel Maddow covered a story on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The judge who overturned the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has a financial portfolio. Ok, you say, what is wrong with that? He, like everyone else, wants to retire in comfort. Well, the only problem is that his portfolio contains a substantial number of shares in companies that might be affected by the oil spill. Judge Martin Feldman sold his shares of ExxonMobil on the day he issued his ruling that overturned the moratorium. His office claims that he did not know he owned the stock while he was conducting hearings related to the case. And, MSNBC researchers found, Judge Feldman is heavily invested in Blackrock, which in turn owns a huge number of shares in, you guessed it, BP. Watch the video here:

As Maddow notes, the problem is not that Judge Feldman owns the shares. He should be allowed to own whatever shares he wants. And just because he owns the shares does not mean that his decision was unjust. The question that must be asked is why was the case assigned to this particular judge? A month after the decision, drilling is now set to resume. Should not the case have at least been given another look?

As you probably know, we think the decision to overturn the ban on deepwater drilling was misguided. A plethora of evidence has proven the negligence of oil companies and drilling companies. We cannot trust them to continue drilling just yet. The potential for disaster remains too great.

Now we recognize there is a legitimate argument to continue drilling. People are losing their jobs and incomes because of the ban. Economically, the Gulf Coast suffers because of the ban. The question is, do the benefits of continuing drilling outweigh the potential risks?

*Video courtesy of MSNBC via Firedoglake.

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How much does a pro-pollution amendment cost? From the looks of recent reports about the relationship between Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and a big energy lobbyist, at least about $35,000. That’s how much Duke Energy, Southern Co. and their executives gave to Sen. Murkowski’s campaign and leadership PAC so far in the cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s no surprise then that Jeffery Holmstead, a registered lobbyist for clients Duke Energy and Southern Co., had extraordinary access to Murkowski – access to help craft an amendment to allow his clients to continue polluting. The amendment proposed by Sen. Murkowski would gut key provisions of the Clean Air Act. The Washington Post reports that Holmstead (also a former top official at the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush) and another lobbyist, Roger Matella, were very hands-on in drafting the amendment:

In an interview, Holmstead said of the Murkowski amendment, ‘I certainly worked with her staff’ on the exact phrasing of the measure in September.

The Obama Administration has moved forward to regulate pollutants that cause climate change using the Clean Air Act. This critical step to rebuild our economy with clean energy, and to protect our health and our climate from global warming and pollution is under attack by the big polluters. And they have friends in high places. (more…)

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USA Today’s Ken Dilanian, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker reported today on retired military officers being employed as by a company that helps contractors win Pentagon contracts. At the same time, these same retired officers are also being employed by the military to help run war games:

In a marketplace awash in consulting firms that help defense companies sell to the Pentagon, the Durango Group has a unique advantage.

The Colorado-based firm has become a base of operations for retired officers who also are handsomely paid by the military for their advice. No other defense consulting firm employs more “senior mentors” than Durango. Of the 59 former officers who work for Durango, 15 also serve as mentors, a USA TODAY investigation found.

As Durango associates, the retired officers are paid to help private companies win and administer Pentagon contracts. As mentors, the retirees are paid by the military to help run war games, which also gives them access to classified strategies and weapons systems. Durango cites these mentoring assignments on its website as signs of its associates’ unique connections. (more…)

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Another one bites the dust

Victory! Roll Call  reports that the nomination of Chamber of Commerce lapdog Mark Gitenstein to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy has been dropped — and suggests Public Citizen played a significant role in convincing the administration to drop the nomination. (more…)

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K Street

by David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division

It’s big news when a president says something like “I screwed up.” And it’s true that mistakes were made, so to speak, regarding some recent nominations. But President Obama still has a groundbreaking ethics policy, and he can still make it work. Sen. Daschle’s nomination shows how.

We at Public Citizen were concerned about Daschle’s nomination right away because we had heard about his work at Alston & Bird, which has a major healthcare lobbying practice.  Even though many people thought Daschle would have done a great job at HHS and as health “czar,” his private-sector work over the past few years didn’t seem to fit with Obama’s promise to change the way Washington works.

(more…)

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corn1

Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Chris Frates report:

No political appointee, Obama’s transition team has declared, “will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years.”

Taylor Lincoln, of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, said Vilsack’s appointment effectively violates Obama’s pledge.

“As secretary of agriculture, he should have to recuse himself from situations affecting clients that he advised. If he advised really big agriculture clients that would be make it impractical to be the secretary of agriculture,” said Lincoln, editor of the group’s blog becoming44.org. (more…)

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Not surprisingly, the Senate Ethics Committee has a different take on whether lobbyists should be allowed to throw parties for lawmakers at this summer’s national conventions. Unlike the House Ethics Committe, which is notorious for its indifference to, well, ethics, the Senate panel says the parties hosted by lobbyists to honor lawmakers are a violation of Congress’ new ethics rules. Read the Public Citizen news release.

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