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Friends of the Earth Sues State Department on Keystone XL FOIA Delay, DeSmog Requests White House Financial Disclosure Forms

11:46 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn – Obama advisor and TransCanada PR flack

Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for failing to expedite its April 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking communications between TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline’s influence peddlers and the agency tasked to make the final decision on KXL’s northern half.

FOE’s request seeks records of communications between State – which FOE has yet to hear back from since the April expedition request denial – and a cadre of powerful lobbyists.

The most well-connected of the group is Anita Dunn, a principal at SDKnickberbocker, a senior advisor to Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. Dunn – who had over 100 private meetings with the Obama Admininistration between 2009 and 2012 according to a New York Times investigation – now does public relations on behalf of TransCanada at SDKnickberbocker.

Dunn’s husband Robert “Bob” Bauer - President Obama’s personal attorney, former White House Counsel for Obama, Counsel for the Democratic National Committee and election law attorney for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign – works at a law firm that does legal work on behalf of another TransCanada-owned pipeline, Alaska’s South Central LNG.

DeSmogBlog submitted a FOIA request to the White House for the financial disclosure forms of Dunn and Bauer on July 5.

FOE’s FOIA also requested communication records between State and other lobbyists with career ties to President Obama, John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some highlights:

1.) Paul Elliott, chief lobbyist for TransCanada, a top Hillary Clinton adviser in her 2008 presidential campaign

2.) David Castagnetti of Mehlman, Vogel & Castagnetti, who was director of Congressional relations for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and Brandon Pollak of Bryan Cave LLP, who also worked on Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign

3.) Gordon Giffin of Long & Albridge, a top fundraiser in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and Jim Blanchard of DLA Piper, also a top Clinton 2008 fundraiser

Making the Legal Case

FOE argues that because the decision for Keystone XL’s northern half could happen within weeks or months, an expedited request should be granted. Normally, federal-level FOIA requests can take upwards of 2-3 years, by which time President Obama will have decided the fate of Keystone XL.

“The requested information is critical because a number of the lobbyists presently advocating for the project formerly worked for Secretary of State John Kerry, or for former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton,” says the lawsuit complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal on behalf of Friends of the Earth. “In light of these relationships, the requested records would allow FoE to inform the public about the nature of the State Department’s decision-making, and the role any of these lobbyists may be playing in that process.”

In nullifying FOE’s April request for expedited FOIA filing, the State Dept. argued the request doesn’t “meet any of the established criteria” for expedition.

What though, fits the “imminent danger” concept better than a pipeline that will hasten climate disruption and cause ecological harm? With regards to “physical safety,” climate change is impacting individuals around the world right now and will only worsen as tar sands are extracted from Alberta and shipped to the export market at increasing rates.

And if anything is a plausible “substantial humanitarian” issue, climate change fits the bill.

FOE’s Hurdle: Obama’s Not-So-Hot FOIA Record

To say FOE has a major legal hurdle to clear on this lawsuit is an understatement. Though candidate Obama campaigned in 2008 to “usher in a new era of open government,” his talk has proven cheap.

“When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk,’” Daniel Metcalfe – Director of the Department of Justice’s office monitoring the government’s compliance with FOIA requests from 1981-2007 - told Bloomberg in a Sept. 2012 article investigating Obama’s FOIA track-record.

Bloomberg further concluded the Obama Administration had “flunked the disclosure test” in his first term.

“I and many other journalists have observed that this administration, despite its public rhetoric, has repeatedly and continually been very difficult to deal with. I rate them worse than the Bush administration,” David Kay Johnston, the head of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) said on a recent episode of Democracy Now! ”They’re behaving much more like a corporation than like the people’s government.”

Tough words from Johnston, and a tough road ahead for the FOIA legal battle royale for FOE in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Keystone XL Scandal: Obama Attorney’s Law Firm Represents TransCanada’s Pipeline in Alaska

11:30 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Bob Bauer

Obama Attorney Robert Bauer works for TransCanada’s law firm.

DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Robert Bauer, former White House Counsel and President Barack Obama’s personal attorney, works at the corporate law firm Perkins Coie LLP, which does legal work for TransCanada’s South Central LNG Project, formerly known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project.

Furthermore, Dan Sullivan, current Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, and former Alaska Attorney General and former Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, is a former Perkins attorney.

These findings come in the immediate aftermath of a recent investigation revealing the contractor hired by Obama’s U.S. State Department to do the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline - Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) - lied on its June 2012 conflict-of interest filing. ERM Group checked the box on the form saying it had no current business ties to TransCanada.

In fact, ERM - a member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on tar sands and Keystone XL since 2008 - does maintain business ties to TransCanada, the investigation revealed. This includes an ongoing consulting relationship with South Central LNG, co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.

Under 18 USC § 1001, making a “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation…[to the] executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States” is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

On top of his job at Perkins Coie, Bauer – a well-known architect of bending campaign finance law to allow more corporate money to flood into electoral races – served as general counsel to President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. He also serves as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee and did electoral law work for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

His wife, Anita Dunn is the co-owner of SDKnickerbocker, former Obama Communications Director, senior advisor for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and is the former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. She’s met with top Obama administration officials more than 100 times since leaving in 2009, according to a recent New York Times investigation.

Dunn currently does public relations work on behalf of TransCanada and freight rail industry lobbying group, American Association of Railroads (AAR). The tar sands pipeline boom comes alongside a freight rail boom to carry tar sands crude and fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

“ERM lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form, and State was either asleep at the wheel or chose to look the other way,” FOE’s Ross Hammond told The Washington Post in a recent piece commenting on ERM’s “Pinocchio moment.”

Given the myriad ties that bind, “looking the other way” appears more plausible.

Perkins Coie’s Legal Bidding for Democrats, TransCanada AK Gas Pipeline Project

Perkins Coie is a global firm with 19 offices worldwide and maintains close ties to the Democratic Party above and beyond Bob Bauer.

Bauer’s colleague Mark Ellis, for example, does legal work on behalf of the “Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Associations and numerous U.S. senators and representatives and their campaigns,” according to his Perkins Coie biography.

The Oil and Gas legal work portion of Perkins’ website highlights its legal work in Alaska.

“In Alaska, our lawyers have long represented leading oil and gas companies on the North Slope and the Cook Inlet…We are extensively involved in efforts to develop the Point Thomson field and commercialize Alaska’s natural gas resources with a pipeline to Lower 48 markets.”

The “efforts to…commercialize Alaska’s natural gas resources with a pipeline to Lower 48 markets” that Perkins’ website refers to is the South Central LNG Project co-owned by TransCanada.

map on the original Alaska Gas Pipeline Project website depicts the route: 

“The project is designed to connect Alaska’s North Slope natural gas resources to new markets and deliver a reliable and secure source of clean burning energy for decades to come,” explain TransCanada and ExxonMobil on the original Alaska Gas Pipeline Project website. “TransCanada and ExxonMobil have the expertise, experience, and financial capability to develop what would be one of the largest privately funded energy projects in the history of North America.”

Before providing legal aide to South Central LNG, Perkins helped the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) - co-owned by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron and often referred to as the Alyeska Pipeline - get up and running. TAPS takes oil from the Alaska North Slope to the Valdez Marine Terminal, home of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Perkins’ legal aide, in fact, made TAPS a reality according to an interview appearing online with Perkins’ veteran attorney Guy Martin. Martin was instrumental in opening Perkins’ office focusing on Alaska in Washington DC.

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