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Mysterious, Powerful Lobbying Group Won’t Say Whom It Works For

Truthdig – By Alexander Reed Kelly – March 21, 2016

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The Commercial Energy Working Group (CEWG) is one of Washington’s many lobbying organizations that have the goal of making government friendlier to business, but who it represents is a secret.

David Dayen reports at The Intercept:

This violates federal lobbying and ethics laws, according to Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum, who has urged the House and Senate to investigate the matter. “The Commercial Energy Working Group is one of the most active – and secret – organizations seeking to undermine energy market regulations,” Slocum told The Intercept. “The purpose of my complaint is to force the group to start identifying its membership.”

Under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, all lobbying organizations registered with the federal government must list the names of any business that has contributed more than $5,000 to them in any one quarter. But the CEWG “does not disclose the individual companies or entities that constitute its active membership,” according to Slocum’s letter.

The group has no web site, does not file annual reports with the IRS, and hasn’t sought incorporation in any state. It operates out of a D.C. law firm – Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan – and used the Sutherland offices as their formal business address in their initial 2013 lobbyist disclosure form. CEWG’s official lobbyists, Alexander Holtan and Blair Scott, are employees of Sutherland. …

A member of the CEWG even sits on the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which maintains federal oversight of derivatives. Ron Oppenheimer, an associate member of the advisory committee, is listed as a “Representative” of CEWG. But he actually works as a senior vice president and general counsel for Vitol, a Swiss-based derivatives trading company.

When Slocum asked Oppenheimer to disclose the membership of CEWG at a public meeting of the CFTC advisory committee last month, he refused. Oppenheimer said the working group had no plans to make that information public. …

In his letter, Slocum identified four other potential members of the CEWG, based on Freedom of Information Act disclosures. A CFTC “external meeting” with the CEWG on April 15, 2015, identifies participants from Vitol, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell. External meetings on June 10 and July 28 similarly had Vitol’s Ron Oppenheimer and ConocoPhillips executive James Allison present. A 2013 CFTC meeting with the CEWG featured representatives of Hess Corporation and NextEra Energy Resources, in addition to Vitol and Royal Dutch Shell. …

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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