Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Big Oil's boy

Anybody But Vitter 

From Sunday's Advocate, here's Tyler Bridges taking a shot at following some of the money in the Governor's race.  For the purposes of Bridges's article, the power conflict at work is "trial lawyers" vs."business interests." The situation has more facets than just that. "Tort reform," for example, is about more than just wealthy business owners and the wealthy lawyers who sue them.

Not to mention the fact that "trial lawyers" often work for "business interests" themselves.  Not to mention, also, the times when their relationship is less adversarial than it appears on the surface.  For more on how "trial lawyers" and "business interests," work both for and against one another in several dimensions of Louisiana politics, please read all of American Zombie.

But it's not a terrible framework in which to place this article which is, after all, about politics.  What are all these frenemies trying to do with their giant sacks of money in the election?
One Baton Rouge-based law firm is spending at least $1.7 million for television ads that attack U.S. Sen. David Vitter, the gubernatorial candidate who wants to kill the lawsuits that landowners file against oil and gas companies.

“We just want to defeat David Vitter,” said Don Carmouche, whose firm, Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello, is funding the anti-Vitter super PAC. “He’s Big Oil’s boy.”

Carmouche said the other three gubernatorial candidates “are reasonable.” They are Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the only Democrat in the race.

Carmouche said the firm is spending an additional $625,000 beyond the $1.1 million previously reported for the anti-Vitter ads.
They're all out to get Vitter because he's "Big Oil's boy."  Not that the lawyers themselves are not also that from time to time but that's another story.  They're certainly right about David Vitter in this case.  Are they right about the other candidates being any different, though? Not really.

Here's a profile of candidate Scott "T-Bobby" Angelle NOLA.com ran today.  According to this article, Angelle is running on the strength of his "Big personality."
While some of the other others can get deep into the weeds of their policy agendas, Angelle is often shorter on specifics. He is more likely to use an anecdote from his own life to get his point across.

"He's running a personality campaign. He thinks that's his strength so that's what he's doing," said Bernie Pinsonat, who owns the Baton Rouge-based polling firm Southern Media Strategies.
Okay.. maybe. But he's also running on the strength of his personal relationship with the oil industry.  
But Angelle, who used to be a Democrat, is trying to appeal to moderates in that party. Angelle is a social conservative, who said he switched parties primarily because national Democrats weren't backing up the oil and gas industry like they should have.

Angelle has close ties to the oil and gas industry. He majored in petroleum land management at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette. As the head of the Department of Natural Resources, he helped regulate the oil and gas industry for the Blanco and Jindal administrations.

Angelle sits on the Sunoco Logistics board of directors, for which he gets paid almost $390,000 – as long as he attends all of the meetings – according to federal filings. U.S. Sen. David Vitter's campaign has called foul on that relationship, implying Angelle used his positions in state government to get the board post.

Angelle said he has not been involved in regulating the company while sitting on its board. If elected governor, he said he would step down from the position.

Oilman and gas CE0 James Flores has also donated $1.25 million to Angelle's affiliated PAC, called Louisiana Rising. Flores' mega-donation has raised some eyebrows.
Sounds like Big Oil has more than one boy, doesn't it? Angelle, in fact, is the only candidate in the race who has received an award from an oil and gas lobbying association for his work... not enforcing environmental regulations as a member of the Public Service Commission.

What about these other guys?  Well there's Jay "Mr. Bean" Dardenne. Prior to his opposition to the well-publicized levee authority lawsuit against the industry last year, Dardenne also boasts of his work to stop Foster Campbell's proposed oil processing tax; our last semi-honest attempt at asking the industry to help pay the state any new fee in return for the vast mineral wealth it extracts from within our borders.

John Bel Edwards is the only candidate to have expressed support for the SLFPAE lawsuit.. although it is now a moot point. He also claims to side with these "trial lawyers" and their right to sue oil companies.  At the same time, though, when this became an issue in his own region of the state recently, Edwards sided with the oil company.
All four candidates also said they believe the state, not local governments, should have the final say-so when it comes to drillers’ hydraulic fracturing operations within a parish. The technique, called fracking, uses high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to loosen oil and gas trapped in rock. Opponents claim the technique could contaminate groundwater and cause other damage.

St. Tammany Parish government and the town of Abita Springs filed separate lawsuits last year to stop New Orleans-based Helis Oil & Gas Co.’s plans to drill near a high school.

The candidates said state jurisdiction over drilling is a must or else there could be just as many sets of drilling rules as there are municipalities and parishes — hundreds.
In the Hellis case, the state stepped in to shut down local action against the fracking operation. You can prattle on about the imagined jurisdictional chaos all you want. That's not what the issue was here and all of these worms, including Edwards, know it.

But for some reason the lawyers have taken a look at the pool of Big Oil boys and selected only one as their target. Why would they do that?  Well, I've tried to point out previously that, if you're trying to knock David Vitter out in the primary, the best explanation for that is you're actually working on behalf of one of the other Republicans.

Given that, and given what we also know about the complicated, not always adversarial, relationship between business interests and trial lawyers, the next question to ask is, which Big Oil boy also belongs to Big Trial Lawyer?

Update: More from Bridges on T-Bobby
State and federal records show that Angelle earned $52,000 in 2014 as an elected member of the PSC, a part-time job, while he earned $194,000 in income and future stock options while serving as a board member of Sunoco Logistics, a company with pipelines that traverse Louisiana.

In 2013, he earned even more in income and stock options — $380,000 — while serving on Sunoco’s board, according to the company’s filings with the federal Securities Exchange Commission.

“When I first heard about it, it was an eye-opening moment,” said Foster Campbell, another PSC member.
That is very ethicsy.  Or at least it is for a former Jindal Admistration official. They don't give that Blue Heron award out to just anybody, you know. 

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