What Happens When The Wash. Post Gives A Top Coal Lobbyist A Writing Gig

Ed Rogers is the chairman of a top lobbying firm that's received more than $700,000 from the energy industry so far this year, and is also a lobbyist for Southern Company, an electrical utility company that is fighting environmental protections. But the Washington Post is allowing Rogers to write a blog where he repeatedly dismisses the scientific consensus on climate change and echoes his client's attacks against President Obama's flagship climate plan without disclosing his lobbying clients. 

Wash. Post Writer Heads A Top Lobbying Firm

Wash. Post Writer Ed Rogers Is The Chairman And Co-Founder Of The Lobbying Firm BGR Group. Ed Rogers writes the “The Insiders” column for The Washington Post's PostPartisan blog. He also co-founded BGR Group in 1991 and serves as its chairman. [BGRDC.com, accessed 11/5/15]

BGR Is One Of The Country's Top Lobbying Firms. According to the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org website, BGR Group has banked $12,990,000 so far in 2015, and is ninth on the top lobbying firms list. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 11/5/15]

Lobbying Expert On Rogers' Wash. Post Blog: “There Are Really Not That Many Lobbyists Who Have That Level Of Prominence In A Public Forum.”

Mr. Rogers' columns appear in The Washington Post's PostPartisan blog. In recent months he has been the only contributor there who is not on the newspaper's staff, other than left-leaning columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., of the Brookings Institution.

“Come to think of it, there are really not that many lobbyists who have that level of prominence in a public forum,” said Lee Drutman, a senior fellow with the reform group New America, and author of the book “The Business of America is Lobbying.” “Usually they have to work behind the scenes.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette8/17/15]

Rogers' Lobbying Firm Gets Big Bucks For Defending The Energy Industry

Rogers Lobbies For Southern Company. BGR has received $150,000 in lobbying income from energy company Southern Company -- the country's third largest power producer -- so far in 2015, according to federal lobbying data compiled by OpenSecrets. Rogers has personally lobbied for Southern through BGR this year on "[Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] and [Environmental Protection Agency] regulatory activity; climate change; loan guarantee program; nuclear power issues; cyber security; tax reform," according to federal disclosure forms. Mother Jones reported that Southern is the third worst “climate offender” in the country. The company states that 40% of its power generation comes from coal. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 11/5/15; SouthernCompany.com, accessed 11/5/15; Senate.gov, 4/20/157/20/1510/20/15Mother Jones7/14/15]

BGR Has Lobbied For WEC Energy Group. BGR has received $120,000 in lobbying income so far from the Wisconsin-based utility We Energies, which has expanded its coal operations while expressing concern over the Clean Power Plan. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 11/5/15; Journal-Sentinel, 5/12/15; POWER, 8/28/15]

BGR Has Lobbied For The National Mining Association. BGR has received $160,000 in lobbying income so far in 2015 from the National Mining Association. The association “represents U.S. mining before Congress, the administration, federal agencies, the judiciary and the media.” It oversees a “Count On Coal Campaign” which aims to “identify, educate and recruit Americans to support our mission to keep electricity affordable by protecting and promoting the use of our abundant coal for power generation.” [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 11/5/15; NMA.org, accessed 11/5/15, 11/5/15]

BGR Has Lobbied For Chevron. BGR has received $280,000 in lobbying income so far in 2015 from oil giant Chevron. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 11/5/15]

Wash. Post's Rogers: Climate Change Science Isn't Settled And Might Be Manipulated

Rogers Dishonestly Used Chinese Coal Report To Suggest Climate Change Science Is Inaccurate. Rogers cited a New York Times report finding “the amount of coal China burns has been underreported” to cast doubt on the data “used to contrive the models that 'prove' the 'settled science' of man-made global warming.” 

Some important numbers that will affect the global warming debate came out in the media this week and they are worth reviewing.  First -- and most incredibly -- the New York Times revealed that the amount of coal China burns has been underreported by about 1 billion tons a year, and has been underreported for the last 15 years. The Times states, “Even for a country of China's size, the scale of the correction is immense ... [and] the increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels.” Oops!  This revelation obviously raises questions about the overall accuracy and dependability of the sea of numbers that drive the policy decisions advocated by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.  If the climate change activists were off by 1 billion tons of emissions just from coal use from one country and that's data they used to contrive the models that “prove” the “settled science” of man-made global warming, what else are they wrong about? And what makes us think these numbers are accurate now?

And oh, by the way, I find it curious how liberals always seem to do things in increments of 1 billion: a billion tons missed here and there, a billion dollars for this and that. It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence that there is an actual equation supporting their numbers.

While Rogers used the Times report to suggest climate change data is being manipulated, the Times actually reported the “revised numbers do not alter scientists' estimates of the total amount of carbon dioxide in the air. That is measured directly, not inferred from fuel consumption statistics the way countries' emissions are usually estimated.” [WashingtonPost.com, 11/4/15New York Times11/3/15]

Rogers Pushed Baseless Attacks On NOAA To Suggest Climate Data Manipulation. Rogers used Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-TX) attacks on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to suggest scientists have been manipulating climate data:

Anyway, a second piece this week, “The Next Climate Scandal” from Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in the Wall Street Journal, reminds us of how easy it is to manipulate the global temperature numbers. Jenkins writes, “By the count of researcher Marcia Wyatt in a widely circulated presentation, the U.S. government's published temperature data for the years 1880-2010 has been tinkered with sixteen times in the past three years.”  This is politics at its worst: With 16 recounts, you can rig any outcome.  Jenkins also highlights Rep/ Lamar Smith's (R-Tex.) quest to determine how and why U.S. government employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took a second look at global warming data and subsequently determined there had been no cessation in global warming for the last 15 years, “eliminat[ing] the 'pause' in global warming seen in most temperature studies.” Remarkable. 

Rogers' attacks are baseless, as NOAA routinely makes adjustments to the temperature record to account for changes to measuring instruments and other non-climate related factors. Furthermore, NOAA's adjustments are peer-reviewed and well-documented, and its data is publicly available online. [WashingtonPost.com, 11/4/15; Media Matters11/3/15]

Rogers Concluded That Climate Science Isn't “Settled.” Rogers concluded that climate change science isn't settled and supporters “don't really care what the numbers are or what inconvenient truths keep turning up”: 

The numbers associated with the global warming crusade aren't settled, but the Democrats' conclusions about global warming are settled. Bottom line: They want to dictate your lifestyle. They don't really care what the numbers are or what inconvenient truths keep turning up.

This week's news compels us to ask how, if the data is so suspect, the science can be so “settled.” The more we know, the more we realize how little we know. Republicans should not be shy about speaking up and keeping the liberals honest.

But climate change science is settled: 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific literature affirms human-caused climate change. [WashingtonPost.com, 11/4/15; Media Matters, 7/1/15]

Rogers Has Used His Post Column To Attack The Clean Power Plan, Which His Client Is Also Fighting

Southern Company Is Fighting The Clean Power Plan. Robert Sussman, who previously worked in the Obama administration as an EPA Senior Policy Counsel, wrote in December that Southern has been a prominent naysayer against the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan, a key component of Obama's Climate Action Plan that will place the first-ever federal limits on carbon emissions from power plants:

Prominent among the naysayers was the Southern Company, one of the largest US generators and distributors of electric power and a top emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Through its subsidiaries, Southern has a dominant presence in electricity markets in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Gulf Coast. This region is conservative politically and Southern has historically been skeptical of federal environmental regulation.

While Southern could not be expected to embrace EPA's proposal, its strongly worded condemnation of the Clean Power Plan is striking and unusual even compared to other critical voices. Southern asserts that the Plan “extends beyond EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act, is unworkable and would increase electricity prices to customers while jeopardizing reliability.” This will result, Southern says, in a “complete deconstruction of the nation's electric sector and negatively impact America's energy security.” Implementing the Plan, according to Southern, could cost $1 trillion.

In August, Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, issued a press release reaffirming “its belief the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extended beyond its authority in creating the most far-reaching environmental rules in the agency's history.” In October, Georgia Power “joined with other energy companies across the country in support of a motion to stay the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan.” [Brookings Institution, 12/17/14; GeorgiaPower.com, 8/6/15; PR Newswire, 10/23/15]

Rogers Repeatedly Attacked The Clean Power Plan In The PostRogers wrote an August 4 post attacking the Clean Power Plan as “just another attempt by President Obama to make an ideological point.” He said the plan “would serve only to raise energy prices for consumers and suppress job growth and would not have any appreciable impact on what are touted as the man-made causes of global warming.” Rogers also wrote an August 5 post attacking the Clean Power Plan under the headline, “It's settled -- Obama's global warming plan won't accomplish anything.” Rogers attacked the plan as having a “negative impact on business”:

Our next president owes it to the American people to be more honest than his or her predecessor about the prospect of anything useful coming from increased costs, diminished economic growth and negative impact on business as a result of increased regulation. I repeat again, according to Coral Davenport in the New York Times, the payoff is only that these actions "could ... prevent some of the worst effects of global warming." [Emphasis added.] Read: Maybe something good will come of it. Nobody knows. So much for “settled science.” [WashingtonPost.com, 8/4/158/5/15, emphasis added in original]

The Wash. Post's “Dishonest” Identification Of Rogers

The Wash. Post Does Not Disclose Rogers' Lobbying Clients Even If They Overlap With His Writing. While the Post notes that Rogers is “the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group,” it does not reveal BGR's specific clients and conflicts even when he writes about subjects that overlap with his lobbying work. In other words, the Post forces readers to actively research whether Rogers has lobbing clients that may conflict with his writing. A Post spokesperson defended the practice to Media Matters in January, stating: “His full-time lobbying job is in his bio on every single piece he writes.” The spokesperson did not respond about why the Post didn't include specific disclosures that support issues favorable to a certain client. [WashingtonPost.com, 11/4/15, 8/5/15; Media Matters1/22/15]

Rogers Regularly Uses His Post Space To Advocate For His Clients' Interests. A Media Matters report in January found that Rogers regularly used his blog to advocate for the positions and interests of his lobbying firm's clients in numerous anti-environmental pieces. For instance, Rogers advocated building the Keystone XL pipeline; BGR has lobbied for Caterpillar, Inc., which would financially benefit from the construction of the pipeline. Rogers' firm received over $1.6 million in fees in 2014 alone from energy and transportation clients. [Media Matters1/21/15]

Media Ethicists Have Savaged The Post For Its “Troubling” And “Dishonest” Disclosure Standard. Media ethicists have panned this policy and urged the paper to do more. Ed Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said in January that “without a specific disclosure that he has a horse to back in this, the blanket description of him as a lobbyist doesn't help.” [Media Matters1/22/15]