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Opinions for Hire

Politico promotes a blurb about a new white paper trashing Dodd-Frank rules regulating energy derivatives, identifying the author as “former [George W Bush Administration] Energy Secretary Abraham Spencer.” What Politico fails to mention is Abraham’s role as a lobbyist for the energy industry that has much to gain from relaxing Dodd-Frank’s derivative rules. Politico neglects to cite his role as head of The Abraham Group LLC, with its non-public list of consulting contracts; his role as the head of Abraham & Roetzel, which is paid by firms such as Cheniere Energy; or his vocation as Vice-Chairman of the Board at Occidental Petroleum. In the latter capacity, Mr. Abraham was paid over $700,000 in 2012 alone, and currently holds over $3 million worth of Occidental stock. Occidental is relevant because it operates a major energy trading subsidiary, Phibro, which Occidental purchased from Citigroup in 2009 for a steal. Phibro is a major player in energy derivatives markets, and stands to financially gain if Congress follows Abraham’s advice in the white paper and relaxes rules for such energy traders under Dodd Frank. Reporters have done this before, as when former Senators Lott and Dorgan advocate on energy policy and reporters fail to mention their lobbying on behalf of energy corporations. For Spencer Abraham, his cachet as former Energy Secretary provides credibility as he advocates deregulation on behalf of his energy trading clients and employers. Opinions for hire is what corporate lobbying interests rely on to gain influence, and journalists have to do a better job mandating full disclosure of former public official’s current lobbying ties.

Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum