On MSNBC Live, Andrea Mitchell discussed energy policy with former Sens. John Breaux and Trent Lott but failed to disclose that both are lobbyists for major oil and gas companies. While Mitchell said that Lott and Breaux "formed a firm" together, she did not note that their firm conducts lobbying or that its clients include oil and gas companies Chevron, Shell, and Plains Exploration & Production Co.
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During the June 9 edition of MSNBC Live, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell discussed energy policy with former Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Trent Lott (R-MS) but failed to disclose that both are lobbyists for major oil and gas companies. While Mitchell said that Lott and Breaux "formed a firm" together, she did not note that their firm conducts lobbying or that the Breaux Lott Leadership Group has clients that include oil and gas companies Chevron, Shell, and Plains Exploration & Production Co. Mitchell began the interview by stating: "Energy independence. Isn't that mythic? How can John McCain, Trent Lott, talk about energy independence when we aren't drilling, we haven't approved any new drilling, for a lot of environmental reasons, but bottom line, we have to import oil?"
During the segment, Lott asserted that America has to do "more drilling" and criticized former President Bill Clinton for vetoing legislation that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. Similarly, Breaux said that there are "huge potential reserves" in parts of the country, and "we gotta do what we can to develop our own resources right here." Breaux also criticized Sen. Barack Obama's proposal for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, claiming that it "will produce less energy, not more."
- Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP). Effective date of registration: 1/1/08. According to its website, PXP "is an independent oil and gas company primarily engaged in the activities of acquiring, developing, exploring and producing oil and gas in its core areas of operation: California, Rockies, Gulf Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Texas Panhandle, South Texas and the Permian Basin of the United States."
- Chevron USA Inc. Effective date of registration: 2/15/08.
- Shell Oil Co. Effective date of registration: 3/1/08.
A January 5 New Orleans Times-Picayune article reported that "Lott's out-of-the-blue decision to quit [the Senate] in December, before his term was up, was widely interpreted as a way of avoiding a new two-year ban on former members lobbying. That ban kicked in Jan. 1 ... Both longtime members of the influential Senate Finance and Commerce committees, Breaux said the firm will have a broad portfolio on tax, energy, health care and transportation issues." The Times-Picayune added that "Lott, a former Senate majority leader, still faces a one-year ban on lobbying the Senate, but he will be able to lobby the House and the administration."
An April 23 Roll Call article reported that "[l]ess than four months after he left office, former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has already scored a major payday downtown. The firm he founded with former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) earned at least $945,000 during its first quarter in business, according to House filings. ... On Feb. 15, it signed up Chevron, which paid $75,000 over the ensuing six weeks for help in the climate change debate. On March 1, it added to that list by signing three clients that each paid $50,000 for the month: Shell Oil (for work on offshore oil and gas issues); Nissan North America (climate change and clean air issues); and Northrup [sic] Grumman (naval vessels and an Air Force tanker), filings show."
From the 1 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on June 9:
MITCHELL: Welcome back. The two presumed nominees are now focusing on the economy as gas and oil prices are soaring to record highs. John McCain told donors this morning that the nation needs energy independence. And right now, Barack Obama laying out the first steps, as you've just heard, to his economic plan in that speech in North Carolina. Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott worked on John McCain's 2000 White House bid. He has now formed a firm with his pal, former Democratic Senator John Breaux. Welcome to both of you.
BREAUX: Glad to be with you.
MITCHELL: Energy independence. Isn't that mythic? How can John McCain, Trent Lott, talk about energy independence when we aren't drilling, we haven't approved any new drilling, for a lot of environmental reasons, but bottom line, we have to import oil?
LOTT: Absolutely right, Andrea. I think it is mythical to think we're going to be independent, but we can be less dependent. But in order to do that, we're going to have to produce more. We're going to have to have more supply, more oil and gas, more drilling. But we're also going to have to really go forward with getting nuclear plants, more hydro, alternative fuels, conservation -- the whole package. The problem is, Congress has not been able to come together with the administration to come up with legislation that will actually make America more independent and less reliant on foreign oil.
MITCHELL: Well, up until 2006, it was a Republican Congress and a Republican administration, and now you've got a Republican nominee, none of them talking about the entire package that you're talking about.
LOTT: Well, they should do that. You know, I used to say, you know, typical Republican, I want to produce more. That's the answer. More of everything. But I've came to the conclusion that's not the way you get things in Washington. Let's try alternative fuels. Let's go with bio -- you know -- diesel. Let's go with biofills. Let's encourage conservation. Let's give incentives. Let's do the whole package. You know, we did some positive things in the 1990s. We actually, for instance, passed ANWR legislation. President Clinton vetoed that. And we did an energy bill a couple of years ago. But it's just been nibbles around the edge.
MITCHELL: John Breaux, you're from the oil patch. How do you feel about your candidate talking about a windfall profits tax?
BREAUX: Well, a windfall profits tax is not going to produce a single barrel of oil. When we had a windfall profit tax back in the 1980s, we produced less energy than before we had the tax. A windfall profits tax may make you feel good as a punitive measure against the energy companies, but until we get the guys and women who produce the energy working with those who consume it, we're never going to solve the problem. A windfall profits tax will produce less energy, not more.
MITCHELL: So how is Barack Obama going to do in your state, Louisiana, and in the rest of the oil patch with this kind of proposal?
BREAUX: We have to have a balanced approach, and I agree with my friend, Trent Lott, on this. We cannot produce from Maine all the way to Key West, Florida, or from Alaska south all the way to San Diego. There are huge potential reserves in those areas. We at least ought to take a look and see what's there. We only have 6 percent of the world's energy in the United States. We're never going to have enough to be independent. We're going to have to look global economy as to where the energy is going to come from. But at least we gotta do what we can to develop our own resources right here, or we'll never solve the problem.
LOTT: I do think some credit should go to the Congress, the administration, and the industry for the fact that we passed fuel-efficiency requirements last year for the automobile industry. They were a part of the effort. They are going to be getting better, you know, fuel economy. And the industry is taking that leap now, going even to -- very soon -- all electric automobiles.
MITCHELL: What about John McCain and his relationship with the conservative evangelicals?
LOTT: I believe that most of those, you know, so-called evangelical, more conservative religious people will vote for John McCain. I hope so.
MITCHELL: Trent Lott, John Breaux, thank you very much.
*Media Matters queried the Lobbying Disclosure Act Database for "Lott, Trent" and "Breaux, John" under "Lobbyists / lobbyist name."