Emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Obama Department of Energy is using the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) — the lobbying arm of “Big Wind” in the U.S. — to coordinate political responses with two strongly ideological activist groups: the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and the George Soros funded Center for American Progress (CAP).
This is further proof that Obama has betrayed his promise to ban lobbyists. Further, this incident suggests yet another questionable appointment — Cathy Zoi, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DoE, injected politics into public policy. Cathy Zoi also happens to be the former CEO of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.
This incident began when an economic paper published by a Spanish university concluded that Spain’s “green jobs” program has cost the country about $800,000 and 2.2 jobs per each job created. Spain’s program had been cited eight times by the Obama administration as being the model for its vision of a U.S. “green jobs” program.
The emails privately describe the Spanish paper as “damaging.”
The emails expose active coordination between the Obama administration, the DoE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the AWEA. These emails show the Obama DoE using the AWEA as a conduit to both the CAP and the UCS, and taking steps to ensure that aspects of its coordination were not committed to paper (or email) because the emails might be revealed later.
The emails reveal three principal issues in the 900 pages received so far. (“So far,” because the Competitive Enterprise Institute is appealing NREL’s withholding of many more pages, and reviewing the DoE’s recent production to see if those withholdings should be challenged.)
The three principle issues:
- The Obama DoE’s relationship with the Big Wind lobby and left-wing ideological activists. What role did those groups play in producing an official administration response to the Spanish “green jobs” study?
- Apparently misleading — or false — statements made to Congress by the DoE. Particularly the statements made by Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi. What was her role in developing the response to the Spanish report?
- Career DoE staffers’ and scientists’ confusion, then concern, then scrambling, and finally dissembling regarding how the response was initiated and at whose request. Was the report — which cost taxpayers around $5000 to prepare — instigated and directed by an industry lobby?
The difficulty in reconciling the internal discussions revealed by the emails with statements made to congressional committees — by DoE’s legislative affairs staff, and by Ms. Zoi specifically — raise questions that should interest those congressional committees. It seems inescapable from these emails that the AWEA actually instigated the DoE report. It is also clear that AWEA played a role in crafting it, along with the far-left UCS. This is important, because DoE and NREL are both on record saying it was the other guy’s idea.
More troubling, DoE followed up with a specific letter from Ms. Zoi to Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) that failed to answer his inquires, though the emails demonstrate that Ms. Zoi’s staff had the information Congressman Sensenbrenner was seeking. In fact, the emails show great consternation regarding what to say about this question, and a reluctance to put in writing who the “unnamed sponsor” was. The email trail I received concludes with a September 22, 2009, email, calling for a huddle in the office of Zoi’s Chief Operating Officer Steven Chalk to get things straight.
The DoE emails show the following sequence of events:
- The AWEA was unnerved by the Spanish report.
- AWEA went to DoE’s NREL with its anxieties, asking what the Obama administration would do to respond.
- NREL began putting together an internal “talking points” memo on the paper, working with AWEA.
- AWEA’s chief lobbyist told Cathy Zoi that NREL was producing the internal memo with AWEA.
- Upset by a George Will column citing the Spanish paper, and now aware that AWEA was crafting the memo with NREL, Zoi contacted NREL. She asked if the memo could be published as an official Obama administration response, rather than an NREL response.
- NREL and DoE staff showed worry, because the paper was never intended to be — and does not meet DoE requirements to be — an external report. It was only suited to be an internal memo, as it reflected no actual research.
- The paper was completed and sent to AWEA, with a request that AWEA send it to the Center for American Progress and the Union of Concerned Scientists. This was done at the request of DoE officials, who wanted the two leftist groups to offer comments on the paper prior to its release.
- At this time, internal DoE and NREL discussion ensued about toning down the partisan nature of the paper. Oddly, this discussion had been accompanied by a request for CAP involvement.
- Zoi’s office made sure the paper was issued with its status upgraded to be a more formal document than regulations indicate is proper. Emails reveal NREL and DoE staff worrying about pressure from Zoi to make this exception.
The emails fall into three categories, each raising interesting questions:
1. Emails discussing how to spin the Spanish report: how to respond to this challenge to one of the Obama administration’s cherished programs?
2. Emails telling of pressure being put on DoE staffers by Cathy Zoi.
3. Emails describing the DoE’s relationship with Big Wind, the Soros-funded CAP, and the leftist UCS.
You might expect this to be a story of great interest to the mainstream media.
But I have excellent information pointing to at least one national newspaper being given these same emails by DoE, upon request, only to have its editors spike the story. In addition to being a case-study in Obama-style governance, this incident reaffirms the role and the importance of new media (such as PJM).
As of today, the NREL and DoE are still withholding the comments from CAP and AWEA, and apparently are also withholding other communications that should have been provided following the appeal of other AWEA communications withheld.
Even so, the documents produced so far tell us much about the Obama administration and its dealings with favored lobbyists and ideological activists. As the investigation continues, we expect to discover much more of what the American people deserve to know regarding the current administration’s manner of governance.
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