photo via tarsandsaction.org
What would 2009 Barack Obama say about this situation: a former Clinton staffer leaves to become a lobbyist for a foreign oil company that wants to get State Department approval to build an oil pipeline over sensitive ecosystems? My guess is that 2009 Barack Obama would be outraged. After all, after becoming president, Obama signed an executive order that sought to prohibit the "revolving door" between government and lobbying. Said Obama at the time, "We are here as public servants, and public service is a privilege. It's not about advancing yourself or your corporate clients."
Enter Paul Elliot, now the director of government relations for the energy company TransCanada, who is lobbying State for permission to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Elliot used to be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's national deputy campaign manager in 2008. That's got to be a problem for the president who sought to end these sorts of arrangments, right? Well, not so much, or at least that's the way it appears since the president has not publicly commented on the scandal.
I don't use the term scandal lightly. Imagine you are a landowner or farmer who is concerned that TransCanada's proposed pipeline would go straight through your land or the aquifer that you depend on for water. That's the truth in Nebraska, for instance, which is pushing back hard against the pipeline. You would view it as a scandal if you knew that political insiders in DC are changing teams to make the pipeline a reality while you are left at home to fight against it, right? And you'd expect your president to put an end to it.
The Washington Post broke the story today about an email chain between Elliot and State staffers:
Elliott -- who served as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's national deputy campaign manager in 2008 -- sought to broker multiple meetings between senior State Department officials and TransCanada executives. He offered to enlist TransCanada officials' aid in helping State officials forge an international climate agreement. And he deluged administration officials with letters testifying to the virtues of the Keystone XL expansion project, which would ship crude oil from Canada's oil sands region to American refiners.
Credit Friends of the Earth for uncovering this scandal. Said FOE's Damon Moglen:
"Nearly one year ago, Secretary Clinton said she was 'inclined' to approve this dangerous pipeline. Now we have evidence that her employees sought to help TransCanada get a rubber stamp. The pro-industry bias exhibited in these emails and elsewhere show the State Department has failed to live up to President Obama's pledge to ensure that lobbyists' 'days of setting the agenda are over.'"
President Obama is expected to issue his decision on the permit for the pipeline by the end of the year. He's got only a few months to honor the promises he once made.