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Obama spins revolving door again: Former lobbyist named to Energy Dept. post
When White House officials announced Joseph Hezir’s nomination to oversee finances at the Department of Energy in October, they pointed first to his research work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But that’s not his only job. Mr. Hezir also is an officer and shareholder of a Washington-based consulting and lobbying firm, which since last year has paid him more money than the salary he received at MIT, ethics forms show.
Mr. Hezir’s nomination provides a case study on the limitations and loopholes in President Obama’s pledge to reign in the influence of lobbyists and close the revolving door between government and special interests.
Mr. Hezir was a registered lobbyist until the summer of 2011 — beating by only a few months the two-year lobbying ban Mr. Obama imposed on appointees. He continues to be a shareholder in the EOP Group, which lobbies for the Nuclear Energy Institute and NRG Energy.
“Mr. Hezir is going to avoid many revolving-door restrictions, but his previous lobbying work and continued coziness with the energy and environmental industries are concerning,” said Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization.
“He’ll have to dig in to protect the public interest and take off his pro-industry hat, which could be made difficult by his duty to recuse himself from certain companies or issues,” Mr. Amey said.
It’s also unclear whether Mr. Hezir will require a waiver from Mr. Obama’s ethics rules — as dozens of appointees have since the first term. The Energy Department declined to provide an on-the-record response to questions from The Washington Times.
Mr. Hezir has spun through the revolving door of government before. He worked in the Office of Management and Budget for 18 years starting in 1974.
Ethics forms show that since last year, he has consulted for several major energy clients at EOP, including advising utility giants Pepco and Southern Co. on Energy Department financial assistance programs.
Other clients include utilities Public Service Electric and Gas Co. and Entergy, which received advice from Mr. Hezir on climate and energy policy, forms show.
In February 2012, Mr. Hezir presented a paper at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s SMR (small modular reactor) conference titled “The Policy Case for a SMR Public-Private Partnership.” As a client of the EOP Group, the institute paid the firm $70,000 since last year.
Mr. Hezir’s paper noted that government incentives for other carbon technologies have created “an uneven playing field” for SMRs. But he also said SMRs can spur private investment and extend the “nuclear option” to more markets, replacing older, smaller coal units.
While the Energy Department has been reluctant to discuss Mr. Hezir’s industry ties, the nominee did sign an ethics agreement saying he would stop providing services to EOP Group clients and resign his job as vice president and director upon confirmation, which is pending.
Since last year, he has earned $180,123 from the EOP Group, compared with $96,250 from the MIT Energy Initiative. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also worked at MIT, where he was head of the physics department.
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About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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