The Koch brothers have turned to a former aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to lobby against the simple idea of a carbon tax.
As the Hill reported Wednesday, Shockey Scofield Solutions (S3) registered to lobby for for the Kochs’ company in support of a House measure that would express the “sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.” The oil services corporation Halliburton also retained S3 in June to lobby on energy, immigration, and transportation issues.
Disclosures for both companies note that S3’s Mike Ference, the former director of strategic development for Cantor, is a principal lobbyist on their behalf. Ference’s bio on Shockey Scofield’s website says that while working for Cantor, “Mike led the Majority Leader’s national outreach operation to the energy, financial services, high-tech, entrepreneurial, business and academic communities.” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said Ference was a “vital resource” for “outreach to stakeholders affected by the laws we pass.”
The resolution that S3 is paid to lobby for would not affect policy — if passed, it would just symbolically state that the House thinks that a carbon tax is a bad idea. The Koch brothers and the petroleum companies they own fiercely oppose a carbon tax. Americans For Prosperity, a Koch-funded advocacy group, waged an online ad campaign in June urging Congress to oppose a carbon tax. However, a broad array of conservative economists, former Republican lawmakers, and majorities of the American public support a price on carbon that helps to cut the deficit. Koch lobbyists, Koch-funded third-party groups, and more than $2.5 million in Koch political contributions are betting that money and access will be more influential than public opinion, intellectual arguments, and the realities of climate science.
Halliburton, which also retained S3 to lobby Congress on energy issues, recently reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to plead guilty to destroying evidence in the investigation of the 2010 BP oil spill. While the disclosure does not specify a bill that S3 will lobby for or against, there is increased interest in national fracking oversight rules. Right now, the “Halliburton Loophole” from the 2005 Energy Policy Act exempts fracking from the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974.
It makes sense that both Koch and Halliburton would turn to S3 and Ference to seek influence. In 2004, Senator Inhofe hired him to be his legislative assistant focused on energy. Shortly after Ference started at Shockey Scofield early this year, he and several other “Inhofe Alumni” held a fundraiser for the Senator on Valentine’s Day.
Before the Republicans took back the House in the 2010 midterm elections, Ference told The Hill that blocking the EPA “would be a primary focus for our conference in the majority.” But Ference also said the GOP wanted to “cast aside this idea that Republicans are in the pockets of Big Oil and that’s it. I think we have a lot of great ideas.”
Those great ideas inspired the GOP House leadership to earn the distinction of having the “worst environmental record ever,” with 95 votes to dismantle the Clean Air Act and 317 votes that would harm the environment in total.
Ference’s assertiveness was not limited to energy policy fights — Politico reported in 2012 that Ference aggressively confronted fellow Cantor aide Brad Dayspring over the rollout of a jobs plan and they nearly got into a physical altercation. Dayspring submitted his resignation three days later.