Political Party Time

In Energy and Commerce lobbyists, Fred Upton has fundraising 'friends'

The incoming chair of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee has received the fundraising help of a long list well-connected lobbyists in the health, energy and telecom sectors, judging by this invitation to an event benefiting his leadership PAC this past summer.

All but a couple of the 30 hosts listed on the invitation to Fred Upton’s, R-Mich., “Friends of Fred Happy Hour" are lobbyists with interests before the committee.

Five of the hosts (Gregg Hartley, Tim McKone, Charlie Black, Daniel Mattoon and Tim McGivern) lobby for AT&T; four lobby for Comcast (Jeff MacKinnon, Susan Hirschmann, Ken Duberstein and Sam Lancaster); and three more (former deputy energy secretary Kyle McSlarrow, MacKinnon and Hirschmann) count the National Communications and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) as a client. All of these groups are key players in the net neutrality debate.

And the list of top contributors to Upton's leadership PAC for the recent election is littered with the hosts' clients, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In addition to the three telecom players listed above, electric power companies Southern Co. and Entergy, both also MacKinnon clients, top the list, along with industrial giant Koch Industries (represented by Brian Henneberry).

MacKinnon and his colleagues at Ryan, Philips, et al are also among the PAC's biggest benefactors, donating $5,500 in the past two years, according to CRP. The former Joe Barton, R-Texas, aide was rumored to be a candidate for committee staff director before lobbyist Gary Andres was chosen.

Upton has adopted conservative stances on the main policy debates that the committee has its nose on: he has vowed to repeal the “job-killing Obamacare law”; said he opposes the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to promote net neutrality; and told the National Journal he is “deathly opposed to the carbon tax.”

Energy companies’ messengers are all over the ‘Friends of Fred’ flyer. Two of them work for firms among the most active in lobbying on climate change legislation, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity. One is Drew Maloney of Ogilvy Relations, the former legislative director to the House GOP Leadership under former Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, who represents the Hess Corporation, the Electric Power Supply Association and Chevron. The other is MacKinnon, whose clients include Sunoco and the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association for shareholder-owned electric companies.

Pharmaceutical and insurance companies are also well-represented on the invitation. Former Rep. Thomas Bliley, Jr., R-Va., of Steptoe and Johnson, disclosed lobbying for big health insurer Cigna on “congressional oversight of the healthcare industry” and “issues relating to regulatory reform legislation” this year. Former Tom Delay chief of staff Susan Hirschmann advocates for Bayer, Pfizer and Abbott Labs.

Two former Upton hands -- Scott Aliferis and David Woodruff -- are also named as hosts. Aliferis, of K&L Gates, lobbies for coal industry giant Peabody Energy and Sapphire Energy, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying this year, in part to get tax credits for algae-based fuel, according to lobbyist disclosures.

Woodruff, Upton's former press secretary, lobbied this year on renewable energy and regulatory issues for Archer Daniels Midland, which produces ethanol.

And Gary Andres, the Michigan lawmaker recently brought on as committee staff director, should find many allies among Upton's "friends of Fred."

As Paul Blumenthal wrote yesterday, this year, Andres represented many of the companies – such as General Motors, FedEx and United Health Group -- that have important business before the committee. Five hosts advocate for these companies: Mark Valente promotes United Health Group’s interests; Ken Duberstein and Susan Nelson vouch for GM; and Daniel Mattoon and Charlie Black are paid by FedEx.

Upton was chosen by the House Republican Steering Committee to head the Energy panel last week.