This Washington Post Writer Has A Million Dollar Ethics Problem

Post Writer/Lobbyist Advocates For Clients' Interests In Anti-Environmental Pieces

The Washington Post has allowed opinion writer Ed Rogers to advocate for the positions and interests of his lobbying firm's clients in numerous anti-environmental pieces. The Post and Rogers have not disclosed his major conflicts of interest even though his firm received over $1.6 million in fees in 2014 alone from energy and transportation clients like Chevron, Caterpillar, and the National Mining Association. 

Rogers is a Republican strategist who chairs and co-founded the BGR Group with former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) in 1991. As the Post itself has reported, the firm is one of the top Washington D.C. lobbying firms, having banked more than $15 million in 2014. The newspaper's reporters have described Rogers as a “Republican mega-lobbyist,” “lobbyist extraordinaire,” and “a go-to guy for Republicans.”

One of BGR's practice areas is energy and transportation, where it professes to having “the industry expertise, Capitol Hill experience and knowledge of government to successfully advocate our clients' public policy goals.” Rogers is listed as a group leader for the issue area.

On his Post “Insiders” blog, Rogers frequently advocates for positions favored by his energy and transportation clients. While the Post notes that Rogers is “a political consultant” and “chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group,” the publication fails to disclose Rogers' firm's clients and conflicts of interest in his anti-environmental posts. For instance:

  • Keystone XL. Rogers advocated building the Keystone XL pipeline because of “the jobs it would create for hard-working Americans and the positive impact it would have on America's energy independence.” He also attacked environmentalist Tom Steyer, who is a leading opponent of building the pipeline. (In reality, the pipeline would create few permanent jobs and would have little effect on energy security.) BGR represents Caterpillar, Inc., which would financially benefit from the construction of the pipeline.
  • Utilities. Rogers has lamented how the Obama administration has saddled utility companies with “punitive regulations” and “regulations that will essentially shut down coal-fired power plants.” BGR represents utility companies Southern Company Services, Inc., and WE Energies, which both use coal-based plants. Rogers has personally lobbied for Southern, according to federal disclosure forms.
  • Nuclear Power. Rogers has attacked environmentalists who “categorically dismiss the scientific proof of the viability, safety and reliability of nuclear energy. I have a little test for the global warming crusaders: If you're not for nuclear energy and against ice cream, your commitment to the cause is questionable.” BGR represents Southern Company Services, Inc., which produces nuclear energy. 
  • Environmental Regulation. Rogers has criticized environmental regulations as “anti-growth” and “anti-development.” BGR represents Chevron and the National Mining Association, which have fought against and would be affected by such regulations. 

Here is an overview of some key BGR clients and the $1.68 million they've paid to the firm in 2014:

  • American Ethane. ($200,000: Q2, Q3, Q4). The Houston-based energy company “will be able to provide ethane to clients around the world.”
  • Caterpillar, Inc. ($600,000: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4). Caterpillar is a “manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.”
  • Chevron U.S.A., Inc. ($480,000: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4). Chevron is “one of the world's leading integrated energy companies” that is “involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry.”
  • National Mining Association. ($40,000: Q3). NMA “represents U.S. mining before Congress, the administration, federal agencies, the judiciary and the media” and lobbies against EPA regulations, including claiming such regulations would lead to higher electricity prices.
  • Southern Company Services, Inc. ($200,000: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4). Southern bills itself as “the premier energy company serving the Southeast through its subsidiaries.” 
  • WE Energies. ($160,000: Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4). The Milwaukee-based company provides “electric service to customers in portions of Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.”

BGR also provides strategic consulting. Unlike lobbying, consulting services do not need to be publicly disclosed. In other words, Rogers may represent numerous other companies that are not publicly known whose business interests overlap with his Post writing.

Rogers' Washington Post position is clearly good for his lobbing business. His BGR profile advertises that “Since 2011, Ed has been an opinion writer for the Washington Post, where he writes about politics and the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C., from a Republican point of view.” BGR Group's Facebook page regularly promotes his posts, including his anti-environmental screeds