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Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:29

If Money Is Speech, Chevron Just Bought a Megaphone

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chevron(Photo: romleys)If money is speech, the corporate person called “Chevron” has both a big mouth and special access to the ears of key policymakers charged with the responsibility of overseeing their business and, in some very significant ways, the future of everything.

That’s because—unlike the rest of us who often choose between the lesser of two evils—Chevron leaves nothing to chance. In 2013, Chevron spent over $10 million on lobbying. In addition to deploying well-heeled, well-paid lobbyists to make their case on Capitol Hill, the third most profitable company in the U.S. has just placed one of those lobbyists on one of the House Committees most relevant to its present and our future.

According to Lee Fang of the Republic Report, “One of Chevron’s top lobbyists, Stephen Sayle, has become a senior staff member of the House Committee on Science, the standing congressional committee charged with ‘maintaining our scientific and technical leadership in the world.’”

Sounds okay, right?

Chevron is interested in promoting science. That’s a good thing. Really, it’s something we can all agree on.

In fact, you may have seen their relentless “We Agree” television ad campaigntouting, among other things, their promotion of science education and the future of the much-talked about “Science, Technology, Education and Math” (STEM) effort to populate American corporations with the next generation of geologists, chemists and engineers.

And STEM education is something the Department of Education and Chevron agree about wholeheartedly

In fact, Chevron is very, very interested that you know just how much they “agree” with you, and not just about education. They’ve got ads aboutprotecting marine life in Angola, about how they’re helping people from Kazakhstan “develop their careers,” and how they’ve become job creators in Australia!

Their YouTube page features about two dozen pricey, well-produced ads spinning their education initiatives and trumpeting their commitment to corporate responsibility. But they got forty videos on the one thing they care about most—“producing energy.”

Because, putting aside all those warm feelings they want you to feel about Chevron’s magnanimity and unique corporate personhood, extracting oil and gas and then selling it for a hefty, taxpayer-augmented profit is where the rubber ultimately meets the road.

And that’s why the road traveled by their leading lobbyist ended up taking him right into the House Committee on Science. As Lee Fang reported, Stephen Sayle was “…chief executive officer of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying firm retained by Chevron to influence Congress. For fees that total $320,000 a year, Sayle and his team lobbied on a range of energy-related issues, including implementation of EPA rules under the Clean Air Act, regulation of ozone standards, as well as ‘Congressional and agency oversight related to offshore oil, natural gas development and oil spills.’”

Sayle even got a nice little $500,000 going-away present via Chevron’s lobbying firm just before walking up the Capitol steps.

Unlike his previous visits, this time he’s there to stay. And he’ll be working hand-in-glove with Committee Chair Rep. Lamar Smith. Shockingly, Mr. Smith went to Washington as a Republican from Texas! Even more shocking, Rep. Smith is a climate denialist, even holding a hearing in December of last year titled “A Factual Look at the Relationship Between Climate and Weather.”

Based on Rep. Smith’s skepticism about the overwhelming scientific consensusthat climate change is anthropogenic, and the bizarre testimony of one witness he called—Professor John Christy from the University of Alabama—the number of scientists who actually believe in human-caused climate change is 52%. It seems that Professor Christy and Rep. Smith have uncovered quite a hoax.

Apparently the hoax extends to a story citing a survey of over “4,000 academic papers published over 20 years” that found 97.1% of them in agreement that climate change is, in fact, anthropogenic.

What is no hoax and no joke is that Rep. Smith’s committee now has a lobbyist from one of the world’s biggest oil companies sitting there in the staff room with him. And because the House Science Committee is woefully bereft of scientists—like the Congress generally—he is in a uniquely powerful position to capture the ear of people like Rep. Smith and to hijack the agenda of a committee that is controlled by “The Crackpot Caucus.”

Chevron’s tag-line in all of its ads and on its website is “You might be surprised to see how many things we can agree on.”

Now that they’ve placed a professional salesman—because that’s really what a corporate lobbyist is—on a committee concerned with climate change, it stands to reason that no one will be surprised to see how much the House Science Committee agrees with their profitable agenda.


Follow JP @newsvandal and at newsvandal.com.