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How An Attorney General Sold Out to Corporate Paymasters

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 7, 2014

Scott Pruitt, Attorney General and Corporate Shill (Not in that Order)

Scott Pruitt, Attorney General and Corporate Shill (Not in that Order)

Everybody in the United States should be reading and talking about Eric Lipton’s terrific story in today’s New York Times. It’s about how American democracy is being sold out by government officials who are supposed to be protecting the interests of the people but instead sell their services to the highest corporate bidder.  It’s a deeply serious story, but, honestly I also really love the part where the lobbyist tells the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma, one Scott Pruitt, to bark.  And, of course, Mr. Pruitt barks.

Woof, woof.  I am laughing as we slide rapidly down to government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation. Here’s an excerpt:

[Oil industry lobbyist Andrew P.] Miller made it his job to promote Mr. Pruitt nationally, both as a spokesman for the Rule of Law campaign and as the president of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

“I regard the general as the A.G. best suited to take this lead on this question of federalism,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff in April 2012. “The touchstone of this initiative would be to organize the states to resist federal ‘overreach’ whenever it occurs.”

To Mr. Miller, having Mr. Pruitt as an advocate fit a broader strategy. He wanted state attorneys general to band together the way they did when they challenged the health care law in 2010. In that effort, they hired a major national corporate law firm, Baker Hostetler, to argue the case, with much of the bill being paid through donations from executives at corporations that oppose the law.

In his initial appeal to Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Miller insisted that his approach was not “client driven.” But he soon began to name individual clients — TransCanada and Pebble Mine in Alaska — that he wanted to include in the effort. The E.P.A. has held up the Pebble Mine project, which could potentially yield 80 billion pounds of copper, after concluding it would “threaten one of the world’s most productive salmon fisheries.”

“This strike force ought to take the form of a national state litigation team to challenge the E.P.A.’s overreach,” Mr. Miller said in an email to Mr. Pruitt’s office. “Like the Dalmatian at the proverbial firehouse,

it could move out smartly when the alarm sounded.”

A Call to Arms

Mr. Miller’s pitch to Mr. Pruitt became a reality early last year at the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City, where he brought together an extraordinary assembly of energy industry power brokers and attorneys general from nine states for what he called the Summit on Federalism and the Future of Fossil Fuels.

The meeting took place in the shadow of office towers that dominate Oklahoma City’s skyline and are home to Continental Resources, a leader in the nation’s fastest-growing oil field, the Bakken formation of North Dakota, as well as Devon Energy, which drilled 1,275 new wells last year.

More liberal attorneys general, such as Douglas F. Gansler, Democrat of Maryland, did not participate.

“Indeed, General Gansler would in all likelihood try to hijack your summit,” Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Pruitt in an email. “At best you would be left to preside over a debate, rather than a call to arms.”

Read the rest of this said tale here, and you will come away understanding why we can’t clean up our air, protect salmon, slow global warming, or otherwise make this a decent country for anyone but the one percent to live.

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