Policy: Environment & Energy

Christine Todd Whitman writes op-ed advancing her client's interest --- NYT runs it

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Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,EPA,Analysis,Energy and Environment

An op-ed in the New York Times in favor of federal regulation of greenhouse gases is nothing special. The Times‘s editors presumably thought these authors would have extra credibility with a certain audience segment because the authors are all Republicans.

Former EPA administrators William Ruckelshaus, Lee Thomas, William Reilly and Christine Todd Whitman signed their names to the “Republican Case for Climate Action,” published last week in the Times. Jonathan Adler makes a multi-pronged case that this is a feeble effort at outreach. For one: “None are known as Republican leaders or are particularly influential in Republican circles. Indeed, it’s not clear they should all even be identified as Republicans.” He then cites the authors' tendencies to donate to Republicans.

But this might be more to the point: If you want an author with maximum credibility supporting regulations, you might pick someone who’s not personally enriched by those regulations.

For starters, Christie Todd Whitman is co-chair of a nuclear-industry lobby group called “CASEnergy.” Nuclear companies would profit from regulation of greenhouse gases. This doesn’t disqualify Whitman’s argument, and it doesn’t actually argue against the regulation of GHGs. It does indicate that maybe Whitman should have disclosed this.

Whitman also runs Whitman Strategy Group, with offices in Princeton and on K Street. Whitman Strategy Group helps corporations “navigate through the maze of ever-changing laws and regulations, governmental red tape and business bureaucracies.” It’s no longer registered as a lobbying firm, but when it was, its clients included solar energy companies.

Here’s the interesting detail about her consulting work, from the firm’s website:

The Whitman Strategy Group was hired by a company that was considering investing in an air quality consulting firm. They turned to WSG to help them identify the long-term value of this consulting firm….

In a very short timeframe, WSG prepared a detailed summary of key federal policy and regulatory trends and observations related to clean air, including various scenarios dependent upon Presidential and Congressional election results, with a horizon of 5 years. We also engaged with the company’s Board of Directors to discuss our results and answer various questions. Our forecasting report played a significant part in the company’s decision to move forward and purchase the air quality consulting firm.

In brief, a Whitman client started a business that profits only when the EPA uses the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. In that Times op-ed, Whitman and coauthors fully endorse Obama using “his executive powers to require reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the nation’s power plants and spur increased investment in clean energy technology….” That is, having the EPA regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act.

This casts her firm’s advice in a different light, doesn’t it? They weren’t just “forecasting” policy that makes a client's business decision profitable — they were advocating that policy.

So, a corporate lobbyist/consultant uses the New York Times op-ed page to advocate a policy that benefits a client, and the Times identifies her only as a former EPA administrator, and carries her argument in part because she’s supposed to carry added credibility.

Again, it’s not actually an argument against climate legislation to point out that some businesses and consultants profit off it. I’m just pointing out that a lobbyist or corporate consultant can avoid skepticism from the likes of the New York Times by donning herself in green.

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