Democratic House Likely To Rekindle ExxonKnew Investigations

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Dec 2018 19:05:00 GMT

With both houses of Congress under a Republican majority, investigating the malfeasance of the oil industry has not been a priority. Instead, Republicans have held hearings investigating the officials who are investigating the oil industry.

However, with the House moving to Democratic control, Congressional oversight will become a renewed priority. That primarily involves overseeing the work of the Executive Branch, but also includes corporate behavior of national interest.

The “ExxonKnew” controversy is the evidence that Exxon and other oil majors knew for decades that their products cause dangerous global warming but decided to run a disinformation and political interference campaign to avoid regulation of their pollution.

A leading Congressman in calling for investigation is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) who repeatedly called for Congressional investigations in 2016. However, he is not currently on the committees with jurisdiction (that could change in the new year).

Another is Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), a former attorney for NRDC, who sits on the Natural Resources Committee and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, both of which potentially have oversight jurisdiction.

Another potential leader on this is Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the incoming chair of the Science Oversight subcommittee, who has spoken out in support of actions by state attorneys general to investigate Exxon.

19 No Fossil Fuel Money Freshmen Join U.S. Congress

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 24 Nov 2018 20:44:00 GMT

Nineteen members-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives took the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, refusing to accept campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry and running on a climate-justice platform. The freshmen No Fossil Fuel Money class is remarkably diverse, in terms of race, gender, geography, and district partisanship.

Katie Hill CA-25
Harley Rouda CA-48
Mike Levin CA-49
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell FL-26
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia IL-04
Ayanna Pressley MA-07
Andy Levin MI-09
Rashida Tlaib MI-13
Dean Phillips MN-03
Ilhan Omar MN-05
Chris Pappas NH-01
Debra A. Haaland NM-01
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez NY-14
Madeleine Dean PA-04
Mary Gay Scanlon PA-05
Susan Wild PA-07
Elaine Luria VA-02
Jennifer Wexton VA-10
Kim Schrier WA-08

In Senate Testimony, Kavanaugh Implicated Georgetown Prep 'Friends' For Alcohol-Related 'Trouble'

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 20 Sep 2018 20:09:00 GMT

During the third day of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Kennedy (R-La.) questioned Kavanaugh about “getting into trouble” at the elite all-boys school Georgetown Prep, eliciting nervous laughter.

Dodging the question, Kavanaugh told Kennedy that at Georgetown Prep, “I had a lot of friends, I’ve talked a lot about my friends. And they’ve been here. So it was very formative.”

When Kennedy pressed his question about “trouble,” Kavanaugh replied, “That’s encompassed by the friends, I think.”

Watch:

Kennedy concluded by saying he’s decided to not ask Kavanaugh whether his underage friends were “sneaking a few beers past Jesus.” Kavanaugh shook his head, said “Hey,” and giggled again in response to a comment not caught by the microphone.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) took the microphone, saying, “I for one am grateful for the senator’s self-restraint.”

It is unknown what motivated Kennedy’s questions at the time, although Kavanaugh’s close friend and classmate Mike G. Judge recorded in his book Wasted the binge drinking that dominated those years at Georgetown Prep. Similarly, Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry made repeated references to keg parties and vomiting.

After the hearing, it was revealed that professor Christine Blasey Ford had informed members of Congress that Kavanaugh and Judge had sexually assaulted her while they were all in high school.

Full transcript:

In Speech About Being An Impartial Judge, Kavanaugh Discloses Close Friendships With Corporate Elite

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:07:00 GMT

In a 2015 address to Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh discusses his friendships with and envy of America’s corporate elite. Arguing in favor of an “impartial” judiciary, Kavanaugh discusses how he knows these men, whether from his days at the boy’s-only Georgetown Prep, Yale, in the George W. Bush White House, or at the corporate law powerhouse Kirkland & Ellis.

In his prepared remarks for the speech given March 30, 2015, Kavanaugh planned to make a joke about how popular one of his wealthiest friends, Mike Bidwell, is:
I am proud to say that three Georgetown Prep classmates of mine—Mike Bidwill, Don Urgo, and Phil Merkle—happen to be 1990 graduates of this law school. They remain very good friends of mine, and they well reflect the values and excellence of both Georgetown Prep and this law school. You may recognize Mike Bidwill’s name. He is the President of the Arizona Cardinals football team. I am pretty sure he is on the Dean’s speed dial. Yet he is the same humble, generous, friendly guy he was when he was fourteen years old.
Kavanaugh diverged from his prepared remarks, however:
By coincidence, three classmates of mine at Georgetown Prep were graduates of this law school in 1990. And are really really good friends of mine: Mike Bidwill, Don Urgo and Phil Merkle. And they were good friends of mine then. And are still good friends of mine; as recently as this weekend, when we were all on email together.

Bidwill has used his team’s website to support Kavanaugh’s nomination. As Deadspin writer Samer Kalaf notes, he then “went on a conservative radio show to continue to push for his old high school pal” and “bellyached about how unfair it is to be criticized for requiring that NFL players only protest or demonstrate where no one can see them.”

Don Urgo Jr. is a corporate lawyer who now helps run his father’s hotel management business, Urgo Hotels & Resorts.

Philip Merkle is the director of the Office of Administration at the U.S. Department of Justice. He has worked at DOJ since 1996.

Kavanaugh continued:
But fortunately, we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day, as the Dean was reminding me before the talk, which is, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.

This line earned some mild chuckles from the audience.

Now that Kavanaugh is in line to join fellow Georgetown Prep alumnus Neil Gorsuch on the highest court in the land, it appears that “what happens at Georgetown Prep” may not stay there. He and fellow classmate Mark G. Judge have been accused of sexual assault by professor Christine Blasey Ford. There is no statute of limitations on such a crime in Maryland.

Kavanaugh continued:
The Dean [Dan Attridge] is a wonderful man. He and I worked together at Kirkland and Ellis. We had memorable cases and lawyers at Kirkland and Ellis. I think back at those times.
Dan Attridge’s Kirkland & Ellis page notes one of his “ground-breaking” victories:
Counsel for Nationwide Insurance in over 400 Hurricane Katrina coverage cases in Mississippi, winning the ground-breaking first case to go to trial and defeating the Attorney General’s challenge to the policy’s flood exclusion.

Attridge’s victory cost Katrina victims billions of dollars in damages. Immediately after the ruling, insurance company stocks rose by 2 percent.

At the time, Kavanaugh was working in the Bush White House, as the administration’s racist neglect in the run-up to and aftermath of Katrina led to the death of 3000 Americans. The White House and Senator Grassley have refused to make public Kavanaugh’s role in the Katrina disaster.

Kavanaugh went on to describe his envy of another fellow corporate lawer:
And one person comes to mind that we worked with, was a guy who was a little younger than I was, named Ted Ullyot. And Ted was a great lawyer, great guy, and he worked with us at Kirkland. Then, when I was at the White House and became this job called staff secretary, I had to hire a deputy. And Ted was a great lawyer and I brought him in as my deputy. And then I went on to be a judge. And I remember getting a call from him in 2007 or 2008. And he said, “Yeah, I’m gonna go take this job in California.” “Oh wow, doing what?” “I’m gonna be general counsel of this company.” And I had never heard of the company he was talking about. It was a general counsel of Facebook. And that turned out to be a really good move. Yeah. And that’s been a…

You know, I am committed to public service, as I said, but I do spend some time reading Robert Frost, “The road not taken.”

Ullyot also served a chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Ullyot is now a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Kavanaugh then went back to his prepared remarks to say that he believes in being an impartial judge.

Senate Democrats Fundraise Off Kavanaugh's Nomination While Doing Little to Stop Him

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 06 Sep 2018 01:16:00 GMT

Claiming unified opposition to the nomination of Trump Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Democrats are fundraising to help re-elect incumbents who are not opposing Kavanaugh. In an email to its list in Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)’s voice, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee wrote, “We need to stand together. So much is at stake.”

The email linked to a petition to “oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination” and then to a fundraising page to “Save the Supreme Court” and “Help Elect Senate Democrats.”

It is unclear how contributing to the DSCC would help save the Supreme Court from Kavanaugh, described in the DSCC email as a ” pre-selected political ideologue, nominated possibly because he believes a sitting president should be shielded from civil lawsuits, criminal investigation, and prosecution—no matter the facts.”

For there to be any likelihood of Kavanaugh’s nomination failing, the 49-member Democratic caucus would need to be unanimous in their opposition. But that is not the case—in particular with the vulnerable Democrats most heavily backed by the DSCC. As CNN reports, “Senators signal Kavanaugh appears on solid ground to win confirmation” :

“Not so far,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, told CNN Wednesday afternoon when asked if anything she’s heard so far would be considered disqualifying.

“No, I haven’t seen anything from that standpoint,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said when asked if he’s heard anything that would lead him to vote no. “He’s handled himself very professionally.”

Sen. Doug Jones, the Democrat from Alabama who won his special election after Gorsuch was confirmed, was non-committal when asked about Kavanaugh on Wednesday.

In addition to Heitkamp, Manchin, and Jones, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana are equivocal on Kavanaugh.

Update 9/6:

Liberal Senate Democrats praised Schumer’s failure to whip the caucus against Kavanaugh, as requested by a coalition of progressive advocacy organizations, Politico’s Burgess Everett and Elana Schor report:

“There is universal confidence in the Democratic Caucus for Sen. Schumer, whether they’re the progressives or the more conservative members of our caucus. There’s strong respect and admiration for how he handles diversity in our caucus,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin.

“They’re the people that you can’t be pure enough for,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). of Schumer’s detractors. “Unless we can convince a few Republicans, then we don’t have the votes. That’s goal No. 1 and the outside groups should stay focused on that.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). praised Schumer for “holding a very wide ranging caucus together in a way that has made strong points in the hearing without causing problems for our 2018 candidates.”

“There is what I call Democrat disease, which is to waste our time fighting with each other and quarreling over purity contests,” Whitehouse said. “And of all times to lose our way in those quarrels, this is perhaps the worst.”

In an interview with The Hill, Democratic whip Dick Durbin of Illinois was similarly critical: “The Senate doesn’t work that way, and the groups that are asking for it are not in touch with reality.”

As whip, Durbin is the senator officially responsible for wrangling the votes of the Democratic caucus.

In an interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish, Whitehouse similarly criticized the hearing protesters for being “not helpful” particularly for “the states in which we have, you know, our Senate races.”

Everett and Schor editorialize that letting Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court in return for electoral victories in November would “vindicate” Schumer: “If a handful of red-state Democrats eventually support Kavanaugh and then win reelection, Schumer’s strategy will be vindicated.”

Full text of the email:

Brett Kavanaugh Has A Consistent Record Of Attacking Climate Action

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 10 Jul 2018 17:47:00 GMT

Trump Supreme Court nominee and former George W. Bush White House official Brett Kavanaugh has ruled repeatedly on behalf of industrial polluters, particularly on climate change. As a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (the D.C. Circuit), Kavanaugh has argued, sometimes successfully, to block action on carbon pollution.

Environmental Defense Fund Board Members Actively Invest in Fracking

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 25 Dec 2017 19:07:00 GMT

frackingEnvironmental Defense Fund (EDF), unlike some other environmental groups which support a ban on fracking, argues that natural gas extraction can be done responsibly, perhaps reflecting the views of board members profiting from active fracking investments.

Hydraulic fracturing isn’t all good, but it doesn’t have to be all bad, either,” an EDF blog post summarized in May of this year.

The organization’s top natural gas official, vice president Mark Brownstein, responded to this week’s New York state ban on hydraulic fracturing with an ambiguous statement:
“The risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and unconventional oil and natural gas development are so serious, EDF believes that every state has the right to decide whether or not development is consistent with the interests and wishes of its citizens. New York State has made its decision—but with or without drilling here, New York remains the country’s fifth largest natural gas consumer, with an extensive network of gas transmission and distribution lines. Methane leaking from these systems has more than 80 times the climate-warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. State officials and the companies that operate these pipes need to find and fix those leaks as part of the ongoing effort to modernize New York’s electric and gas infrastructure and accelerate the state’s transition to cleaner, renewable, and more efficient energy.”

EDF’s approach to environmentalism is pro-market, built upon investment strategies and corporate partnerships. The organization has partnered with dozens of companies in the natural gas industry for a suite of studies on methane leakage from fracking, storage, and distribution.

Meanwhile, several members of EDF’s board of trustees, who provide millions in funding for the organization, are actively invested in fracking. (This is far from unique among environmental non-profits.)

The board member with the strongest conflict of interest is Edward Stern, an active investor in fracking and a direct funder of pro-fracking front groups in New York, although he is not the only problematic trustee.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Patrick Leahy Oppose Trump USDA Chief Scientist Nominee Sam Clovis

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 01 Nov 2017 15:43:00 GMT

Two more members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, are publicly opposing the confirmation of Sam Clovis, Trump’s nominee to be USDA chief scientist. Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan announced her opposition in September.

Clovis, long under criticism for his lack of scientific credentials, is now embroiled in the Mueller investigation for his role as a top Donald Trump presidential campaign official. Clovis directed his subordinate on the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, to “make the trip” to Moscow to collude with Russian agents.

“If his anti-science record were not enough cause for concern,” Leahy’s statement reads, “the latest reporting suggesting that Mr. Clovis may have facilitated Russian collusion in our elections raises these concerns to an alarming level. Even for this administration, that should be disqualifying.”

“Sam Clovis is uniquely unqualified to serve as USDA’s top scientist, and his confirmation would be harmful to North Dakota’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities,” Heitkamp said in a statement to Politco. “North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers need and deserve someone in this role who will work in their best interest – and that is not Sam Clovis. I’ll oppose his nomination.”

With Leahy and Heitkamp’s announcements, there are ten senators, including three on the Agriculture Committee, to publicly oppose the nominee, who rejected the science of climate change, promoted the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and argued that homosexuality is a choice.

A growing coalition of environmental, science, and sustainable farming organizations oppose Clovis.

Senators in public opposition to Sam Clovis:
  • Kamala Harris (D-CA)
  • Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)*
  • Tom Udall (D-NM)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)*
  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)*

    Members of the agriculture committee are marked with an asterisk.

  • Sen. Patty Murray Opposes Trump USDA Chief Scientist Nominee Sam Clovis

    Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 25 Sep 2017 20:09:00 GMT

    Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State, is “strongly” opposing the confirmation of Sam Clovis, Trump’s nominee to be USDA chief scientist. Murray based her opposition on concerns that Washington is vulnerable to the dangers of climate change, and need government officials who respect the science, not “an adamant climate change denier” with a “deeply disturbing record of racist, homophobic, and sexist comments.”

    Murray expressed her opposition in a letter to a constituent obtained by Hill Heat.

    Murray is the sixth senator to publicly oppose the nominee, who rejected the science of climate change, promoted the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and argued that homosexuality is a choice.

    A growing coalition of environmental, science, and sustainable farming organizations oppose Clovis.

    Thank you for contacting me with regard to Dr. Sam Clovis, President Donald J. Trump’s nominee to be the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). I appreciate hearing from you.

    The responsibility to evaluate and vote upon nominees is one of my most important duties as your senator. I evaluate each individual that a president submits to the Senate based upon their record and experience to make sure they meet my long-held standards regarding ethics, honesty, and substantive experience in fields related to the job for which they are nominated. Whether in committee or on the Senate floor, I ask tough questions about how each nominee plans to move our country forward, to make it more just and inclusive, and to fight for the middle class and working families.

    President Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but with his choices of many Cabinet nominees and other officials, he has repeatedly broken that promise. So many of his nominees have been mired in shocking conflicts of interest or simply have not had the basic experience necessary for the positions they seek to fill. President Trump has continued to break that promise with the nomination of Dr. Clovis, who lacks any relevant experience for the position and is unfit to serve in any office of public service due to his history of racist and outrageous public comments. The president has again put campaign politics before basic competence by selecting Clovis, who served as one his senior campaign advisors, over individuals with knowledge and experience related to USDA, to agriculture in general, and to the agricultural research that is so important to Washington state.

    The 2008 Farm Bill added the responsibility of chief scientist to the Under Secretary’s role, expanding the position’s duties and including the responsibility to lead scientific evaluation of evidence and data in order to inform policymaking. By law, this individual must be a scientist, and Dr. Clovis is not. He holds degrees in political science, business, and public administration, but appears to have no actual science background and has never worked in the agricultural economy. Accordingly, he is unable to fulfill the requirements of the Farm Bill and is unqualified for this role. I am also concerned by Clovis’ continued rejection of clear science, as he remains an adamant climate change denier. Climate change is real, and we can no longer pretend it is not. It is impacting families, workers, families, and business in Washington state and across the country. In Washington state, the realities of climate change have led to shrinking glaciers on Mt. Rainier, more intense and devastating wildfires, the loss of crops, reduced yields, and the destruction of wildlife habitats. USDA’s chief scientist must not be a person who rejects science or who questions the importance of crop insurance programs that are so important to our state, as Clovis has.

    In addition to clearly lacking appropriate experience and training for the role, Clovis has a deeply disturbing record of racist, homophobic, and sexist comments that do not represent the values of Washington state and are unacceptable for any individual to make, let alone someone seeking a public office. His hateful and divisive words have no place in our diverse nation. Now more than ever, and in the wake of events like the tragedy in Charlottesville, we cannot permit hatred and bigotry to go unchallenged anywhere. Individuals who hold such views have no place being in positions of public trust.

    I have been proud to lead the fight against President Trump’s unqualified nominees, and I will keep up that fight for as long as it takes. If and when Dr. Sam Clovis’ nomination for the Under Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics comes before the full Senate, I will strongly oppose him. The chief scientist role at USDA, which drives the agricultural research that is vital to maintaining Washington state’s edge in a global agricultural marketplace, must be filled by a competent professional who believes in science and in creating a sustainable future for all — regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me, and please know that I will keep them in mind. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sing up for updates at http://murray.senate.gov/updates.

    Sincerely,
    Patty Murray
    United States Senator

    Climate Hawk Sen. Tom Udall Opposes Trump USDA Chief Scientist Nominee Sam Clovis

    Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 22 Sep 2017 22:20:00 GMT

    Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, is opposing the confirmation of Sam Clovis, Trump’s nominee to be USDA chief scientist. Udall based his opposition on concerns that New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers are exposed to the dangers of climate change, and need government officials who respect the science.

    Udall is the fifth senator to publicly oppose the nominee, who rejected the science of climate change, promoted the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and argued that homosexuality is a choice.

    On a campaign website, Udall wrote:
    The USDA is incredibly important to farmers and ranchers in New Mexico. They fund research that helps farmers and ranchers adapt to climate change, so extreme weather patterns don’t cost them their livelihoods.

    We need someone in this position who will take steps to stop climate change from destroying crops. We could be facing serious threats to food safety and our natural resources in the coming years — and Trump should nominate someone with the expertise and know-how to handle those threats.

    Trump’s current nominee for chief scientist at the USDA has no significant scientific training or experience.

    Demand President Trump to rescind Sam Clovis’s nomination and replace him with someone qualified.

    The four other senators who publicly oppose Clovis are Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

    A growing coalition of environmental, science, and sustainable farming organizations oppose Clovis.

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