This week Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, leaves office, having resigned under the cloud of a cronyism and corruption scandal. A U.S. attorney has subpoenaed “records that are a catalog of Kitzhaber’s climate and economy-related initiatives,” centering on money given to Mr. Kitzhaber’s fiancee Cylvia Hayes. Ms. Hayes served a curious triple role of “first lady,” adviser to the governor on energy policy and well-compensated consultant for the “clean energy” industry.
Any such investigation must not stop at Oregon’s borders. This is not because the “clean energy” industry seems unique for its associated scandals in recent years, or the prevalence of wealthy Democratic donors getting even richer from it. Of course, some of those same supporters, such as Tom Steyer, provided Democrats a financial surge on a par with a longtime force, the teachers’ unions, in 2014, expressly for the purpose of advancing the “climate” agenda, transferring taxpayer money to uneconomic “clean energy” schemes.
Instead, a broader look into the depth of this ingrained collusion reveals that Mr. Kitzhaber’s office enlisted others to use their governors’ offices to “spread climate coordination and collaboration to a larger group of governors across the U.S.” underwritten by Mr. Steyer and others.
On behalf of the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, I obtained an 11-page email thread under Washington State’s freedom of information law. In it, we see how Mr. Kitzhaber’s office organized a campaign to promote the industry’s agenda, beginning with the California and Washington governors’ offices, a private environmentalist law firm and the White House.
The scheme was to recruit other governors to use their offices the same way. Mr. Kitzhaber’s aide originating the email discussion is Dan Carol, identified as central to the unfolding scandal by the Portland Oregonian: “How did Hayes end up with a fellowship funded by an organization with an interest in clean-energy policy in Oregon? A Kitzhaber campaign adviser, Dan Carol, helped arrange the funding following Kitzhaber’s election in 2010 … Carol subsequently landed a position within the Kitzhaber administration. That position, Willamette Week has reported, pays more than $165,000, making Carol Kitzhaber’s highest-paid aide.”
According to the emails, the parties discuss “Dan’s concept.” Deploying the governors’ offices in a coordinated push for the “climate” agenda would require paying outside parties as well, which would be funded by “major environmental donors” including Michael Bloomberg and Mr. Steyer. This would “serve as a standard setting left flank.”
Specifically, the plan includes “a nationally-coordinated, multi-year ‘states strategy’ focused on driving outcomes contemplated by the president’s climate action plan, [EPA’s Clean Air Act section 111d], resilient infrastructure and international treaty objectives at scale.”
Using green-group slang, the emails refer to President Obama’s push for windmills and solar panels to supplant our existing network of electricity generation and distribution, and to the Kyoto II treaty expected to be reached in December.
The parties sought to arrange a private White House dinner “to create buy-in” among the same crowd, to “signal where funders should support filling holes in missing capacity we need to pull off the Multi-state strategy to keep outcomes and momentum moving on top of the public approach,” wrote Mr. Carol.
According to the emails, Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech liked the idea. Sam Ricketts, director of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s Washington, D.C. office, also assured his colleagues that “[Council on Environmental Quality ] staff were interested and felt [White House’s David] Agnew, [then-Counselor to the President John] Podesta et al.” would be interested as well.
About the planned White House meeting, they suggested “select Governors, senior White House officials, Tom Steyer, [Michael] Bloomberg, and a couple of other major environmental donors”: “The Ask to Funders at that Meeting: Support right now the hiring of a ‘grown-up’ in each state, trusted and recommended by each engaged Governor who is capable and committed to developing and managing an integrated and multi-issue climate outcomes campaign through Paris 2015.”
This would “be independent of any specific in-state or national [nongovernmental organization], yet would work closely with [green] NGOs .”
A major objective was creating “broad interstate [climate] agreement.” Most intriguing about this was the plan to use electric utilities to flip Republican governors. “[B]ecause there are key utilities whose service territories cross red and blue states Governors in these states could quietly engineer a breakthrough strategy that compels utilities in key red states to lead the charge to win over a key Governor, rather than rely on a standard NGO-shaming strategy that might not deliver.”
Taken together, the Kitzhaber scandal and these emails leave no doubt that credible investigation into the use of public offices to advance the “clean energy” industry, beyond the Oregon governor’s office, is required. Any investigation must also extend to the White House, whose occupant serially invoked the objective of “finally” making renewable energy “the profitable kind of energy.
That is not a legitimate purpose of government. Yet it plainly was an objective of many government officials. We now see both how and why. It is time to investigate what is behind this “fundamental transformation” of government.
• Chris Horner is an attorney in Washington D.C. representing various conservative and libertarian public interest groups.