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The Fractivist Lobbying Sham

Fracking Lobby Sham  - Tom Shepstone reportsTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW

   

A recent report in the Scranton Times reveals a fractivist lobbying sham and sets the stage for more of the same from the fractivist funded Common Cause.

We have, more than once, observed how groups such as Common Cause, which is itself a liberal special interest organization, have falsely accused the oil and gas industry of excessive lobbying while ignoring the active lobbying of their own allies. A sympathetic media almost always takes the bait and perpetuates a false impression of who is lobbying our elected representatives. Yes, the oil and gas industry does lobbying, but so do most other other industries and a whole lot of special interest environmental and other non-profits, except that the latter aren’t disclosing anywhere near what they really spend.

The Fractivist Lobbying Sham That Is Common Cause

Our attention was again drawn to this issue by an article in the Scranton Times by their Harrisburg correspondent Robert Swift. His report, while fair in many respects, also buys into the conventional politically correct wisdom by targeting the oil and gas industry, and the National Rifle Association while ignoring the lobbying of any environmental groups or other liberal constituent groups with whom the Scranton Times regularly sides in its editorial policies. He also fails to pick up on the real scandal – that these groups horrendously under-report their activities – except to quote one of the parties doing it, that being Common Cause.

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Common Cause, holds itself out as “non-partisan” and above it all, but the state lobbying disclosure site indicates it spent roughly $19,000 in Pennsylvania over the last year on lobbying. It’s anything but non-partisan.  Its representative told Swift the way lobbyists report on issues they’re working on “is pretty much a sham” and they should know. 

Common Cause is actually two organizations, both tax-exempt. One is Common Cause, the 501(c)(4) political organization and the other is the Common Cause Education Fund, the 501(c)(3) charity group with whom it regularly exchanges funds. It’s a common ruse used to hide lobbying activity by claiming some of it as education or other non-lobbying activity. It allows money to raised as a charity while doing politics at the same time, even though it’s the same staff, offices and board members.

Yet, Act 134, Pennsylvania’s lobbying disclosure legislation is clear. It defines lobbying as follows:

An effort to influence legislative action or administrative action. The term includes: (1) providing any gift, entertainment, meal, transportation or lodging to a State official or employee for the purpose of advancing the interest of the lobbyist or principal; and (2) direct or indirect communication.

It further defines direct and indirect communication as follows (emphasis added):

“Direct communication.” An effort, whether written, oral or by any other medium, made by a lobbyist or principal, directed to a State official or employee, the purpose or foreseeable effect of which is to influence legislative action or administrative action.

“Indirect communication.” An effort, whether written, oral or by any other medium, to encourage others, including the general public, to take action, the purpose or foreseeable effect of which is to directly influence legislative action or administrative action. The term includes letter-writing campaigns, mailings, telephone banks, print and electronic media advertising, billboards, publications and educational campaigns on public issues. The term does not include regularly published periodic newsletters primarily designed for and distributed to members of a bona fide association or charitable or fraternal nonprofit corporation.

Now, take a look at the Pennsylvania Common Cause website, found here. Look carefully at the number of issues on which they are engaged, the slick website and the descriptions of Common Cause Pennsylvania’s activities. Bear in mind that it has an office, phone number and staff in Harrisburg, including Executive Director Barry Kauffman, Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, who also served as past state chair of the Sierra Club (no agenda there, of course). Here he is (second from left) participating in a protest of the industry for doing what he does):

fractivist lobbying sham

Are we to suppose to believe all of this, which is clearly directed to, at a minimum, “indirect communication” as defined by the act, amounts to only $19,000 of activity? Apparently so, and one is forced to agree with Kauffman that their reporting is a sham. It’s worth noting, too, the Common Cause Education Fund is a fractivist enterprise, funded by the notorious fractivist lobbying group, the Park Foundation.

fractivist lobbying scamCommon Cause regularly comes out with reports in New York proclaiming huge amounts of lobbying by industry while largely ignoring the activities of their sponsor, even giving its snob heir, Adelaide Park Gomer (right), an award to ensure the largesse keeps coming. We can. no doubt expect them to do the same in Pennsylvania because that’s what they’re paid to do.

Sympathetic media will consume and regurgitate the report for them, while ignoring or vastly underestimating the spending of organizations such as the Park Foundation ($22.3 million of spending in 2012) and the Heinz Endowments ($74.4 million in spending in 2012) through their various intermediaries.

We have, for example, documented how the William Penn Foundation has simultaneously served as the sugar-daddy for the Delaware Riverkeeper, and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the former being engaged in suing the latter and serving on five of its seven committees at the same time.

Not only is this an incestuous relationship, but it makes a mockery of the lobbying disclosure process. The Foundation doesn’t need to disclose paying anyone to influence government – it sends the money right to the governing entity to buy influence directly, while suing with the other hand as insurance. It’s the ultimate carrot and stick approach to lobbying.

Yet, you won’t find the William Penn Foundation ($82.9 million of spending in 2012) listed among the folks doing lobbying on the Pennsylvania lobbying disclosure site. Nor will you find the Clean Air Council, which it funds, and which spends virtually all its time sending staff to Pennsylvania DEP hearings and encouraging others to attend those hearings for purposes of opposing each and every natural gas compressor station proposed by anyone anywhere.

You will find the Delaware Riverkeeper ($2.0 million of spending in 2012, huge chunks of it in opposition to fracking) listed and from April of 2012 through September of this year it reports spending a mere $160 on lobbying. That is nothing short of laughable give the appearances of the organization here, there and everywhere throughout Pennsylvania engaged in fractivist lobbying, opposing everything that moves and trying to influence legislation and public policy decisions of every sort.

The Riverkeeper was, in fact, in high gear recently opposing a modification of Pennsylvania’s completely unreasonable stream buffer requirements. The legislation was of little importance to the oil and gas industry, which had no difficulty meeting the old standards, but the recently signed legislation was vital to landowners in counties with high-quality streams who were virtually shut down from using their land by the rules.

Fractivist Lobbying Sham

The Riverkeeper sent out communication after communication trying, unsuccessfully, to stop the legislation, making a massive effort to do so. It mounted campaigns against the PennEast pipeline, drilling and all types of other activity at the same time. But, it reported only $160 of effort, about enough to replace the welcome mats in its natural gas heated penthouse office suite in Bristol. It is nothing less than scandalous to suggest that was the extent of its lobbying under the Act 134 definition, yet it gets away with it because reporters aren’t interested. Dogging favorite targets such as the National Rifle Association and the Marcellus Shale Coalition is what they’re all about.

Meanwhile the fractivist lobbying sham on the part of these wealthy foundations and their toady organizations continues.

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7 thoughts on “The Fractivist Lobbying Sham

  1. Speaking of shams– http://weaselzippers.us/204352-ferc-barricade/ I was entertained by the words “bowels of the internet”. Via Ecowatch I read about my friends from Occupy the Pipeline, The People’s Puppets of Occupy and of course the Sane Energy Project and how their artwork reflects “reality”. http://ecowatch.com/2014/11/03/25-arrested-shutting-down-ferc/ These are people who infected a FERC docket with nonsense, created a completely fictional account of williams rockaway pipeline project in brooklyn and queens and are carrying their shenanigans over to Long Island with a wonderful conspiracy theory or what appears very much to look like a conspiracy theory on the Port Ambrose project.

    http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060008283

    These aren’t all the stories on this protest but it is interesting to read all the different coverage and angles of the same event.

    It is truly mind boggling to me that no objective journalists has ever seriously looked at some of what these activists are doing and attempted to ferret out where there are real issues being discussed and where there is complete nonsense. My reasons for participating here are different than yours Tom as I just watched what happens when people use the permitting process and projects for their own purpose and gain instead of addressing the particulars of the project at hand. The activists that I am specifically speaking about are creating complete confusion which helps no one and they are in fact spreading misinformation, yet they have extraordinary access to the media.

      • Tom– I wasn’t kidding when I told you that experience could fill a book and it would be very unflattering to this movement. Considering that my name is on the certificate order on the rockaway project–that this is not a project i was in support of–this makes the tale all the more unflattering in my own opinion. This is going to sound nerdy but my own opinions on the rockaway project are not the most important thing in the world to me.

        The most disturbing aspect of this has been the inability of the press to produce accurate reports. Regardless of how anyone feels about any particular energy project (siting, etc) I can’t see how activists misinforming the public on either the permitting process or specific facts can be helpful. Many people tell me that this is what happens all the time with the media but the level of inaccuracy that occurred with how this project was covered increased over time. I may also be a nerd when it comes to believing that there are people who go into the news business with integrity.

        My own opinion is that the activists have been able to pull a fast one partly because reporters wouldn’t have reason to suspect that the activists are actively and deliberately misinforming people. I would think the reporters would be more likely to question the accuracy or truthfulness of the companies or government officials not citizens advocating for a cause and rightly so in most cases. I know I would not have suspected that these activists would be capable of or so determined to spread myth.

  2. https://twitter.com/Bike_at_W4

    Interesting that the folks that wrote the FERC doesn’t work song, the blockadia all know each other. This entire world reminds of the song that plays while one rides in a teacup at Disney..”its a small world after all”.

    Mr. Mcgregor came to the rockaway pipeline hearing to speak about minisink. Certainly an interesting approach to public participation in the FERC process.

    I find it interesting just how much overlap there is between Occupy and antifracking movements and just how much Occupy and these folks make it in the news. Very interesting.

    Kim Fraczek has been in the news with her art multiple times the last few weeks. That is fascinating. Perhaps eventually she will get to produce a childrens’ book or scenery for a play. Perhaps she will get hired to do the visualization of every protest since it appears that is now required that policy discussions now include puppetry, songs and costumes as well.

  3. Pingback: Fracking Reviews Share | Fracking Reviews Fracking – 2014-11-05 Update #4

  4. Tom: Keep up the good work. You and your group are critical to get the truth out about our industry. The fracing bans were 1 for 2 in CA Tuesday, but the threatened lawsuits against Santa Barbara (private mineral ownership “takings”) thankfully will not be deployed and the voracious attorneys licking their chops for years of costly litigation…will have to wait. Although, they could mobilize and attack the two worthless counties San Benito and Mendocino but you need damages to launch the attack, and there is little resource developed within those two counties presently. Please focus hard on the backers and principals at the Center for Biological Diversity as that group is daily attacking every industry practice and has for three years waged a constant war against oil and gas in CA like this state has never seen before. I just hope one day some bright industry attorney will sue the pants off that group for publishing knowingly false and defaming hit pieces (to solicit “donations”) and make them pay for their lies and deceptions. In fact, I would be happy to initiate a drilling project in Medocino county, acquire leases, and then see if the County has the testicular fortitude they claim. That is assuming we could find any workers up there that could pass a drug test (highly doubtful).

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