Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY-SA
This kind of thing is ridiculously common in the opaque corporate lovefest that constitutes modern American politics -- though in any historical moment not buffeted by Bush-era cronyism, Citizens United, and multibillion dollar presidential campaigns it would probably be deemed outrageous. New revelations have surfaced that Mitt Romney's top energy advisor, Jim Talent, is the co-chair of a massive lobbying firm, Mercury Public Affairs. And that massive lobbying firm has a massive client in Peabody Energy, the world's largest private coal company.
So should anyone be very surprised to learn that the energy segment of Romney's new jobs plan touts, above all, coal? Sure, it's strike some as a ginormous conflict of interest there, but hey, this is the era of uber-corporatized politics!
Justin Elliot of Salon reports on the details:
Mitt Romney adviser Jim Talent, the former senator from Missouri, is formulating Romney's coal energy policy while also running a lobbying firm that works for the huge coal company Peabody Energy ... Talent is not an officially registered lobbyist (even though Mercury's website says he offers "lobbying" services), so disclosure rules don't apply to whatever work he does for Mercury. Talent, Mercury, and the Romney camp have all declined to comment on which corporate clients Talent works for.And the Boston Globe reports that "Peabody Energy has paid Talent's firm an average of $125,000 every year for the past five years to help represent its interests in Washington."
But the Boston Globe notices that Romney's big new economic plan includes an energy policy statement by Talent that sings the praises of coal. "America has hundreds of years of coal reserves," Talent writes ... Talent's work for Mercury Public Affairs and its client Peabody Energy, not mentioned in Romney's plan, appears to create a glaring conflict of interest.
So ... Mitt Romney's top advisor works for Big Coal and coincidentally makes calls in his much-touted jobs plan for more coal. That's just how we roll now, here in America. Plenty of folks probably won't even raise their eyebrows at this, so flagrantly has our political system been so thoroughly corporatized. It's all an ambiguous mishmash to the average voter, who has no hope of keeping track of who lobbied for who and what interest conflicts with his running this institution and how much money who promised who and why all this matters anyways.
It's just another example of how things work in Washington, and eff that.