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January 14, 2010

Lobbyists played major role in Sen. Murkowski’s proposal

By CREW Staff

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently consulted with two registered lobbyists on language that would curtail the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clear Air Act. The two lobbyists are Jeffery Holmstead and Roger Matella, both of whom CREW profiled last month in our December 2009 report, Smoke Screen, which outlines members of the Bush climate-change team who now work in lobbying and government relations.

In our Smoke Screen report, CREW wrote:

Jeffrey Holmstead was the assistant administrator for air and radiation at EPA from 2001 through 2005.

After leaving the administration in 2005, Mr. Holmstead joined the law firm of Bracewell and Giuliani, where he heads the Environmental Strategies Group. Mr. Holmstead is a registered lobbyist for Bracewell and Guiliani, and has lobbied for Ameren Corporation, an electrical utility company; Arch Coal, a coal producer; and Duke Energy, an electrical utility company.

Roger R. Martella, Jr. was general counsel for the EPA from 2007 to September 2008.

After leaving the administration in 2008, Mr. Martella joined the environmental practice group at Sidley Austin LLP, as a partner. Mr. Martella is currently a registered lobbyist and has lobbied on the behalf of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, a business alliance focused on the needs of private forest owners and managers, and the Alliance of Food Associations, a "business alliance dedicated to protecting the food sector and its consumers."

It seems that both men are hard at work in their post-government careers. Mr. Holmstead confirmed working with Sen. Murkowski’s staff to craft the exact phrasing of the measure.

The senator’s spokesperson contends that the senator "and her staff write all her amendments" and that she routinely consults with stakeholders from all perspectives. Yet, according to Politico, it was Mr. Holmstead and Mr. Martella who "walked Senate staffers through the details of the amendment, via speakerphone" during a meeting held at the Hart Senate Office Building on September 23, 2009.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, so far in 2010, Sen. Murkowski is the number-one recipient of campaign donations from electric utilities in the U.S. Senate, raking in a total of $157,046. Since 2004, she has received $389,313 in contributions from the electric utilities industry, making that industry her second largest contributor. Sen. Murkowski's third-largest contributor is the oil and gas industry, which has donated $365,813 to the senator. Two electric utility companies represented by Mr. Holmstead, Southern Co. and Duke Energy, have donated $26,000 and $24,050 to Sen. Murkowski respectively.

Two months ago, it was reported that three power plants owned by Southern Co. topped the list of U.S. coal-fired sources of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. Sen. Murkowski was named one of CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress in 2007.

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan had this comment:

"We will never know whether the $50,000 contributed to Sen. Murkowski’s campaign by two of Jeff Holmstead’s energy clients is the sole reason she allowed him to help craft legislation, but surely, the money helped smooth the way. This is the sort of pay-to-play politics that makes Americans so suspicious of our elected leaders."

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