How Former Very Influential Revolving-Door Senators Give Corporate Propaganda Extraordinary Clout
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The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), says its website, “drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue,” and “combines politically-balanced policy making with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.” The BPC, which is often described in press accounts as a “centrist think tank,” is highly influential and the media and Congress treat its reports and pronouncements as consequential and weighty.
The BPC’s reputation is further enhanced due to the large number of former government officials and Members of Congress who serve on its board and as "senior fellows." For example, on May 8, 2013, a story in Politico said that two former Senators had thrown “their energy policy weight… to make the case that the private sector — rather than federal government — should decide on whether to export natural gas.” One of the former Senators was Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, who was identified in the story with the reassuringly neutral title of co-chairman of the BPC’s Energy Project. The story cited Dorgan’s recent Congressional testimony, during which he had said, “We believe the market should make the decision about the exports of natural gas.”
The story didn’t mention that Dorgan is a “ senior policy advisor” and co-chair of the lobbying practice at Arent Fox, one of Washington’s premiere influence peddling shops. Nor did it say that energy companies, including America’s Natural Gas Alliance, heavily fund the BPC. That’s typical of the free ride the press gives to the BPC, which routinely advocates, under the guise of independent scholarship, for policies that benefit its donors.
The BPC was founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, who all cashed in on their government experience by working for Beltway law and lobbying firms, and advising major corporations. The think tank’s funders include foundations, corporations and trade associations, with donors in the last two categories including FedEx, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, the American Bankers Association, BP, Chevron, Citigroup, ConocoPhillips, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and Shell.
A number of prominent BPC “senior fellows” work as lobbyists: These include:
- Robert Bennett, the former GOP Senator from Utah, who is also a “senior policy advisor” at Arent Fox and who registered to lobby last January, immediately after he was exempted from the law that bars former elected officials from lobbying for two years after retiring from public service. Bennett, a former member of the Senate Banking Committee, also formed his own consulting firm to advocate on behalf of major financial institutions. His clients have included Americans Standing for Simplification of the Estate Tax (ASSET), a front group working to slash the inheritance tax.
- Dan Glickman, the former Secretary of Agriculture and ex-Democratic House member from Kansas, who represented the Motion Picture Association of America and whose lobbying clients while at the firm of Akin Gump Strauss, Hauer & Feld included Dow Chemical, American Financial Group Inc., Alliance of American Insurers, Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, and the Walt Disney Company.
- Trent Lott, the former Republican Senator from Mississippi, who has lobbied for numerous companies, including energy giants ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, and America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
The BPC has programs in health care, economic policy, infrastructure, national security and energy. The latter is led by Dorgan, Lott and William Reilly, who headed the EPA under George Bush Sr., and whose board affiliations have included ConocoPhillips and DuPont. Corporations are the dominant group among the energy project's membership list, including CEOs and executives from Marathon Oil, ExxonMobil, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Exelon Corporation, and Southern Company. For window dressing there is one environmentalist, Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council.