Israel Lobby Is Slowly Being Dragged Into The Light

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By Jonathan Cook for Counter Punch – The scandal surrounding Priti Patel, who was forced to resign as Britain’s international aid minister last week after secret meetings with Israeli officials during a “family holiday”, offers a small, opaque window on the UK’s powerful Israel lobby. Patel’s off-the-books meetings with 12 Israelis, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were organised by a British lobbyist in violation of government rules requiring careful documentation of official meetings. That is to prevent conflicts of interest and illicit lobbying by foreign powers. Government protocol was flouted again when Patel headed to the Golan Heights, occupied Syrian territory, escorted by the Israeli army. There she was shown an Israeli military field hospital that patches up Syrians, including Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters, wounded in Syria’s civil war. Afterwards, Patel pressed for the Israeli army, one of the most powerful in the world, to receive a chunk of Britain’s overseas aid. Meanwhile, she has sought to cut aid to the Palestinians, including to vital projects in Gaza. A clue as to how she reached such absurd “humanitarian” priorities is provided in the figure of Stuart Polak, mentor on her Israel “holiday”. The honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak has recruited four-fifths of Conservative MPs, and almost every government minister, to a group whose explicit goal is to advance Israeli interests in Britain.

Meet Clint Watts, Dubious Russia Meddling 'Expert' Lobbying U.S. Gov To 'Quell Information Rebellions'

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By Max Blumenthal for AlterNet – Nearly a year after the presidential election, the scandal over accusations of Russian political interference in the 2016 election has gone beyond Donald Trump and reached into the nebulous world of online media. On November 1, Congress held hearings on “Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online.” The proceedings saw executives from Facebook, Twitter and Youtube subjected to tongue-lashings from lawmakers like Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who howled about Russian online trolls “spread[ing] stories about abuse of black Americans by law enforcement.” In perhaps the most chilling moment of the hearings, and the most overlooked, Clint Watts, a former U.S. Army officer who had branded himself an expert on Russian meddling, appeared before a nearly empty Senate chamber. Watts conjured up a stark landscape of American carnage, with shadowy Russian operatives stage managing the chaos. “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words,” he proclaimed. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.” Next, Watts suggested a government-imposed campaign of media censorship: “Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced: silence the guns and the barrage will end.”

Comments Supporting Gas Exports Rule Are Recycled Industry Copy-Pastes

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By Steve Horn for Desmog – A review of the comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on its proposed rule to fast-track the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) shows that roughly two dozen of of the 89 comments were directly copy-pasted from either industry itself or else pro-industry materials written by the DOE or Congress. Furthermore, all of those copy-pasted comments are anonymous, a hint that the oil and gas industry may be behind an astroturf-style comment-submitting campaign for this rule. Only one letter favoring the proposed rule, written by the American Petroleum Institute and the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, has the industry’s name on it. Three other comments supporting the rule have actual names of individuals, a law school student, a college student, and an individual who DeSmog confirmed wrote the comment out of personal interest and for a public policy course at his university. The rule, which the DOE proposed on the Friday before Labor Day, would assume exports of small-scale LNG — these days mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the U.S. — are automatically in the “public interest” as defined by the Natural Gas Act of 1938. Comments for the proposed rule closed on October 16 and then posted online on October 24.

Goldman Sachs In Government Pushes Profits Of Goldman Sachs

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By Marcus Stanley for Inequality – Goldman Sachs has been a conspicuous presence at the scene of one disaster after another in the past half century. The bank is a leader in a Wall Street business model that relies on market manipulation and unsustainable financial bubbles to enrich a few insiders, but that produces disastrous consequences for the rest of us. We are witnessing what may be a new Golden Age for Goldman Sachs. After running a campaign in which he lambasted the “corrupt” ties between Wall Street and Washington, President Trump has handed the job of shaping economic policy over to Wall Street insiders generally, and to alumni of Goldman Sachs in particular. These appointments add up to a level of inside influence that is unusual even by Goldman’s historic standards. And future picks could produce even more Goldman influence. In choosing Gary Cohn as National Economic Council Director and Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, along with Jay Clayton at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trump has turned to Wall Street veterans with deep knowledge of the financial crisis—knowledge gained as champions of the dangerous practices that helped cause it. In areas ranging from financial regulations, to taxes, to infrastructure, to trade, this Goldman-heavy Administration is promoting policies that would boost Goldman Sachs’s profits, in many ways, at the expense of taxpayers and the broader public. Goldman’s stock price has already soared.

The ‘Monopoly Man’ Just Owned The Senate’s Equifax Hearing

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A demonstrator sits in costume behind Richard Smith, former chairman and chief executive officer of Equifax Inc., right, before a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

By Jenna Amatulli for The Huffington Post – Rich Uncle Pennybags apparently likes to spend his free time at Senate hearings. A person dressed up like the iconic monocled Monopoly mascot (who, in the game, does not actually wear a monocle) was seen sitting in the audience during the Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Equifax data breach on Wednesday. Amid former Equifax CEO Richard Smith’s testimony, many photos with the mysterious Rich Uncle Pennybags in the background cropped up on social media. The mascot’s appearance was the work of Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy organization that identifies itself as standing up to “corporate power” and holding the government accountable. They took credit for Pennybags’ appearance and tweeted that the intention behind the mascot’s presence was to say that “forced arbitration gives Equifax a monopoly over our justice system.” Additionally, Amanda Werner, a campaign manager for Public Citizen, tweeted a photo of herself as the Monopoly man with the following explanation: “The Monopoly Man is here to raise attention to Equifax’s get-out-of-jail-free card, forced arb.” Attached in that tweet is a press release from Public Citizen that features this quote by the organization’s president, Robert Weissman: “Forced arbitration gives companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax a monopoly over our system of justice by blocking consumers’ access to the courts.

Monsanto Banned From Lobbying European Parliament

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By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News – Monsanto, accustomed to lobbying its way to favorable treatment by governments the world over, pushed the EU Parliament too far. Banning lobbyists is a rare move, but one the EU turned to after Monsanto decided to play hardball and no-show a key regulatory hearing. Agrochemical giant Monsanto’s fight to renew the chemical license for its most popular herbicide, glyphosate (aka “Roundup”), was dealt a major blow this past Thursday when the European Parliament officially banned lobbyists representing the interests of the corporation. The move came after the controversial corporation and its lobbyists refused to attend a parliamentary hearing regarding allegations that Monsanto had sought to unduly influence studies examining glyphosate’s safety. As a result of the ban, Monsanto officials and those on the company’s payroll will be unable to meet with members of the EU Parliament (MEPs), attend parliamentary committee meetings, or use digital resources available in Brussels or Strasbourg. During fiscal year 2016, Monsanto spent between €300,000 to €400,000 (c. $354,000 to $471,000) on lobbying efforts at the EU Parliament. Given parliament’s looming decision regarding the renewal of glyphosate’s license, it is likely that such spending has been greater over the past year.

These Corporations Have The Biggest Influence On Climate Policy

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By Lorraine Chow for Eco Watch – For better or worse, corporations have a major influence on climate change policy. Just look at Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate owned by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch that has contributedhundreds of millions to federal candidates and lobbying over the last 25 years. The “Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint,” a new analysis from U.K. nonprofit InfluenceMap, now ranks Koch Industries as the company with the strongest opposition to the Paris climate agreement and most intensely lobbies against policies in line with the landmark global accord. The InfluenceMap scoring system does not measure a company’s actual greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, it measures “the extent to which a corporation is supporting or obstructing the climate policy process.” For the InfluenceMap report, researchers analyzed more than “30,000 pieces of evidence” on 250 global companies and 50 major trade associations on their lobbying records, advertising, public relations and sponsored research, according to Bloomberg. The research group gave the Wichita-based company an “F” grade for its anti-climate actions: “Koch Industries appears to be actively opposing almost all areas of climate legislation. In 2014 in the US, they were reportedly active in their opposition to a carbon tax, funding politicians and campaigns to oppose the tax.

As Sanders Prepared Medicare Bill, Health Care Lobbyists Bankrolled Senate Democrats

Illustration by Cathryn Virginia

By David Sirota and Lydia O’Neal for IB Times – As Bernie Sanders worked to finalize his Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, corporate lobbyists representing the traditional opponents of single-payer health care — including the nation’s major private insurers and drug companies — poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Senate Democrats’ fundraising accounts. Now, many of those lawmakers have refused to sign on to the Medicare bill. Sanders has faced questions about whether or not the bill would garner solid support among Senate Democrats. So far, 16 Senate Democrats have said they will sponsor the legislation — which the insurance industry slammed after he announced it. A new study from campaign finance watchdog group MapLight found that since 2010, Democratic senators who have refused to sponsor the bill have, during their careers, raised twice as much insurance industry cash as those who support the legislation. As Republicans took over the White House earlier this year, significant campaign funding for Democratic senators has continued to come from lobbyists. According to federal campaign finance records reviewed by International Business Times, lobbyists, lobbying firms and one other corporate political action committee collectively delivered nearly $2 million in bundled campaign contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the first half of 2017.

FERC’s Revolving Door: Former Commissioner Joins Pipeline Lobby Firm

From desmogblog.com

By Itai Vardi for Desmog – Only one week after leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), former commissioner Colette Honorable has joined a law firm lobbying for Dominion Energy, the company behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Honorable is joining Reed Smith LLP, a firm lobbying in the state of Virginia for Dominion, the energy giant leading the proposed natural gas project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile three-state line, still requires FERC’s approval. Virginia lobbying disclosures show that Reed Smith has been lobbying for Dominion since at least 2015. The firm has so far assigned three lobbyists to work on Dominion’s behalf: William Thomas, Jeffrey Palmore, and Edward Mullen. Honorable, a Democrat, was appointed as FERC commissioner by former President Obama in August 2014. Previously she served as chairperson of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Reed Smith hired Honorable as a partner in its international energy & natural resources practice. As DeSmog previously reported, Honorable has ties to a senior executive at Southern Company, a minority stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Congress Members Flee When Constituents Show Up At DC Event

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By Staff of Morgan County USA – It was one of those lobbyist affairs buried in the swamp — in this case, Dirksen Senate Office Building Room G-50 — at a party held by the West Virginia State Society and sponsored by the likes of FirstEnergy, Merrill Lynch and United Bank. According to a press release from the West Virginia State Society, the entire West Virginia Congressional delegation – Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, along with the three members of the House from West Virginia — David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins — “will offer remarks and spend the evening mingling with West Virginians and friends from around the DC-area.” That’s right — friends from the DC area.

Inside Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying For Regime Change In Syria

From alternet.org

By Max Blumenthal for AlterNet – On September 30, demonstrators gathered in city squares across the West for a “weekend of action” to “stop the bombs” raining down from Syrian government and Russian warplanes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Thousands joined the protests, holding signs that read “Topple Assad” and declaring, “Enough With Assad.” Few participants likely knew that the actions were organized under the auspices of an opposition-funded public relations company called the Syria Campaign.

Dakota Access Pipeline Builder Spends Millions To Influence Elections

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners who’s PAC has helped bankroll campaigns of some of America’s most fervent climate change deniers.

By Kit O’Connell for Mint Press News – AUSTIN, Texas — The corporation behind the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline also operates its own political action committee that has a record of donating to the campaigns of candidates who support the company’s pro-corporate, pro-fossil fuels agenda in Congress. However, the political war chest of the Energy Transfer Partners PAC amounts to pennies compared to the wealth of Kelcy Warren, the chairman and CEO, who has spent millions becoming one of the most politically powerful oil tycoons in Texas.

Coal Lobbying Groups Losing Members As Industry Tumbles

Membership in coal's leading U.S. lobbying groups has been sliding, a new report says, which coincides with the decline of the nation’s coal industry. Credit: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News – At least 18 major companies—and perhaps nearly twice that many—have ended their memberships in two of the nation’s top coal lobbying groups, the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity since 2009, according to research by the Climate Investigations Center (CIC), an environmental advocacy group. Volvo Construction Equipment North America publicly announced its departure from the NMA during the Paris climate talks last December, citing opposition to the group’s anti-climate action lobbying.

Activists Accuse Facebook Of Lobbying For CISA

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By Dan Wright for Shadow Proof – Facebook Incorporated is once again facing criticism from internet freedom and privacy advocates, this time for deception on their lobbying activities related to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). CISA is the latest iteration of a long legislative effort by the government and various corporate interests to destroy legal privacy protections for internet users. Previous versions of CISA such as SOPA and PIPA were ultimately defeated in Congress after public outrage and opposition from an alliance of powerful tech firms scared politicians off.

Energy Firms In Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General

SCOTT PRUITT The Oklahoma attorney general, second from right, in Dallas in July, and his Republican counterparts have formed alliances to oppose federal regulations. Credit Dylan Hollingsworth for The New York Times

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year. They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority — 27 — of attorneys general’s offices. The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors.