Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during the American Principles Project Palmetto Freedom Forum Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/ Mary Ann Chastain) (AP)

Romney energy aide has financial ties to Big Coal

The man formulating Romney's coal energy policy runs a lobbying firm that works for a huge coal company


Justin Elliott
September 12, 2011 6:07PM (UTC)

Mitt Romney adviser Jim Talent, the former senator from Missouri, is formulating Romney's coal energy policy while also running a lobbying firm that works for the huge coal company Peabody Energy.

I wrote last month about Talent's secretive work as co-chair of the Washington lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs. Talent is not an officially registered lobbyist (even though Mercury's website says he offers "lobbying" services), so disclosure rules don't apply to whatever work he does for Mercury. Talent, Mercury, and the Romney camp have all declined to comment on which corporate clients Talent works for.

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But the Boston Globe notices that Romney's big new economic plan includes an energy policy statement by Talent that sings the praises of coal.

"America has hundreds of years of coal reserves," Talent writes in the second paragraph of the three-page commentary, adding:

As President Obama once remarked, commenting proudly about the costly new regulations he sought to impose on coal plants: "[I]f somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them … ."

What government wants its domestic companies to go bankrupt if they produce energy their own people need from resources their own people possess? Only our dysfunctional government.

Talent's work for Mercury Public Affairs and its client Peabody Energy, not mentioned in Romney's plan, appears to create a glaring conflict of interest. St. Louis-based Peabody is the world's largest private-sector coal company. The Globe notes:

Peabody Energy has paid Talent’s firm an average of $125,000 every year for the past five years to help represent its interests in Washington. The energy company also retains other firms, spending an average of $2 million each year on lobbying, records show.


Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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