Ecology & Environment (E & E), the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) contractor whose membership in the lobbying group Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of New York set off alarm bells, “clarified” its relationship with the organization last week.
In a letter released April 24, E & E asserted that it was never a member of IOGA, though it had previously paid an employee’s membership fees “in order to attend IOGANY’s Conferences and receive its newsletter to be kept apprised of new technical developments in the industry and develop industry contacts.” The environmental consultant castigated IOGA for not obtaining authorization to name Ecology & Environment in its letter to Andrew Cuomo pushing to move forward with fracking in New York State. E & E also declared that it had directed its employee to terminate his IOGA membership.
According to the April 24 letter, “E & E’s nationwide policy has been to not take any position on fracking and only provide objective environmental consulting;” however, the company has a financial interest in New York’s approving the practice evinced in corporate financial reports and past work for oil and gas companies. E & E has also been criticized for its overly optimistic prediction of fracking’s economic effects written on contract for the DEC and further has ties to a now-defunct fracking research institute at the University at Buffalo that incorrectly reported that the incidence of major environmental citations had declined in Pennsylvania.
When Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) announced last January that he would not seek reelection, some media outlets declared that Dodd’s retirement would actually increase the chances that robust financial regulatory reform would be enacted (for example, see articles by The Washington Post and BusinessWeek). Such analyses demonstrate a near total ignorance of the processes of lobbying and campaign financing that dominate Congress. In reality, Dodd’s announcement likely signaled that the aggressive reform of the finance industry widely called for at the height of the crisis will not become law; at least not while Dodd remains Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
The notion that the decision to retire “freed” Dodd from political pressure, allowing him to concentrate on drafting legislation that would become his legacy, greatly underestimates the strength of the ties between Wall Street and Senators like Dodd. During his many years in the Senate, Dodd cultivated his ties to Wall Street and the industry’s K Street lobbyists to the extent that he essentially has two constituencies: the citizens of Connecticut, and the finance industry. Having freed himself from accountability to the former, he can now focus on serving the latter.
In a blog post yesterday, Paul Krugman tells his readers that they shouldn’t look at a Rasmussen poll on healthcare reform in Massachusetts because “it’s Rasmussen.” He points to a poll that he deems more accurate and trustworthy, by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Globe. The poll shows that healthcare reform in Massachusetts is actually fairly popular (Krugman supports Massachusetts-style healthcare reform).
But Krugman’s preferred poll is undermined by a significant conflict of interest: it was co-directed by a health insurance company board member, Robert Blendon. Blendon, a Harvard public health professor, has been on the board of Assurant since 1993, earns about $150,000 a year in this role, and is heavily invested in the insurance company.
The apparent conflict of interest was not disclosed by the Harvard School of Public Health or the Globe, so it’s not Krugman’s fault for not noticing.
Back in July, the White House announced the creation of a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. That’s a lot of fancy words for a commission with a not-so-simple task: to get to the bottom of what caused last year’s financial crisis. The commission is charged with creating a report, which they will submit to Congress in December 2010. They met for the first time last month and like most federal commissions, it’s a motley crew. I spent yesterday updating the profiles of all 10 members. Not surprisingly, many of the commission’s members have strong Wall Street ties, both as employees of or lawyers representing the interests of the very financial institutions they’re charged with investigating.
The commission is comprised of six Democrats, appointed by the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader, and four Republicans, appointed by the House and Senate Minority Leaders. The chair is Phil Angelides, a former candidate for governor of California and green real estate guru. It should be noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used two of his three picks to nominate prominent businesspeople from his home state of Nevada: Byron Georgiou, a Las Vegas-based lawyer and Heather Murren, a former managing director at Merrill Lynch who also happens to be married to the CEO of MGM Mirage in Las Vegas. (Between the three of them, they’ve donated $20,000 to Reid since 2001.)
Story gets it wrong on Summers
By Kevin Connor • Apr 06, 2009 at 15:32 EST
Following on Saturday’s weather balloon detailing the Wall Street pay of Larry Summers, today the Times ran a piece on Summers’s work at the hedge fund DE Shaw. Replete with color from inside sources and spare in its critical content, the article is a striking example of journalistic capture; after discussing Summers’ ludicrous compensation ($5.2 million for a year in which he worked one day a week), the piece follows the lead of its sources in functioning to allay concerns about potential conflicts of interest that Summers faces as the chief architect of Obama’s economic policies.
Ironically, given Summers’ infamous remarks on women and science, the article was written by Louise Story, the same journalist who once “reported” that more women with Ivy League degrees were choosing to become stay-at-home moms. Jack Shafer of Slate immediately called that one out as a “bogus trend story,” pointing to its reliance on nebulous “weasel words,” and the piece subsequently became a favorite punching bag of media critics.