New senior adviser for Obama campaign lobbied for Keystone pipeline, Comcast merger

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm | More from The Minnesota Independent

President Obama’s 2012 campaign has a new senior adviser — a former lobbyist for the company pushing the Keystone XL pipeline, who also lobbied for Comcast throughout the period that the media conglomerate was seeking approval for its merger with NBC-Universal.

The campaign hired Broderick Johnson of the lobbying firm Bryan Cave LLP this week. According to U.S. House of Representatives records, Johnson lobbied to “support submission of a presidential permit for Keystone XL pipeline” in the final quarter of 2010.

Environmentalists are upset with the pipeline and with Pres. Barack Obama’s unwillingness to reconsider the project.

According to Friends of the Earth campaigner Kim Huynh:

“President Obama ran for office in 2008 promising that the days of lobbyists setting the agenda in Washington were over, yet now he’s hired a top oil pipeline lobbyist into his campaign,” Huynh said. “This is a deeply troubling development. A lobbyist who has taken corporate cash to shill for this dirty and dangerous pipeline now has even more opportunity to whisper into the President’s ear.”

On October 6, Friends of the Earth and the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International amended (pdf) a Freedom of Information Act request so that it now includes a request for all State Department documents that pertain to interactions with Johnson and several other pipeline lobbyists.

Bryan Cave earned more than $1 million from 2009-2011 from its lobbying activities on behalf of TransCanada.

Johnson was also a lobbyist in Comcast’s massive effort to influence the Federal Communications Commission to approve a merger with NBC-Universal, which made it one of the biggest media conglomerates in American history, as the Minnesota Independent reported. Sen. Al Franken was a prominent critic of the merger, which consumer advocates said would reduce options and increase costs for customers.

Brian Cave LLP received at least $440,000 in lobbying income from Comcast from 2009-2011, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Johnson is listed on the House disclosure forms throughout the period, some of the forms disclose his role as “advocacy work regarding Comcast/NBC-U transaction.”

The Comcast merger was approved in early 2011. Later this year, Comcast snapped up FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, who supported the merger, as the new Comcast vice president for government affairs, what’s known in Capitol circles as the “revolving door.”

Johnson himself has held a number of official and lobbying positions, including deputy assistant to the President for legislative affairs in the Clinton White House. Johnson was also an informal advisor for Obama’s 2008 election, according to his bio on another firm’s website.

Ed Brayton contributed to this report.


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