Pratap Chatterjee of CorpWatch looks at Republican senator Peter Domenici of New Mexico, the chair of the Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee, and his connections to lobbyists in the nuclear power and the fossil fuel industry. [includes rush transcript]
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: While midtown Manhattan is snarled up in protests and traffic jams, the oil and gas industry was able to get away from it all in a quiet café in Brooklyn where they threw a party for Peter Domenici of New Mexico. The River Café, once voted among the top five restaurants in New York, boasts a beautiful waterfront view of Manhattan from its perch under the Brooklyn Bridge. We caught one Jackson Coleman, the legal council for the Energy and Resources Subcommittee that Domenici chairs and Tom Moskitis, the director of External Affairs for the American Gas Association.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Tell us about the party that you just attended. Who was it for and why was it held here?
JACKSON COLEMAN: This was in honor of Chairman Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. It was in honor — and for the benefit of also the New Mexico delegation, and — in his honor, though, for all of the work that he has done over the years to take care of the energy needs of America.
TOM MOSKITIS: All right. We were there to — the oil and gas production community were there to honor the senator for his work in getting or at least trying to get an energy bill through the congress. We represent all of the customers of natural gas, the — we represent the companies that distribute natural gas to 60 million consumers nationwide. We just need more supply to help moderate the prices. Senator Domenici is doing a great, great effort in that regard. We came to a reception to honor him and now we’re headed off downtown to another one.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: You guys are spending close to 1 million on a bunch of reception that the American gas association is throwing parties all over the city. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
JACKSON COLEMAN: Well, it’s not as much as you think. What we did was we raised the money from all of the member companies a little bit at a time. It’s not like we have a campaign chest or anything like that. We have member companies to contract into the pool of money, and then we were able to put on a number of — at least help sponsor a number of the events in New York to honor all of the people in congress who were trying hard to get an energy bill for the country —and for the consumers. So that’s our aim.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: We have met a couple of guys over there that said "climate stabilization now." They didn’t seem to agree with the party. I was wondering whether you had a comment since you work for the House of Representatives, if they threw a party, would you be going to that party?
TOM MOSKITIS: Well, I wouldn’t be speaking on behalf of the House of Representatives. Any view I would give would be a personal view. Let me just say this — one of the most important thing we can do is to continue to take care of the energy needs of the country no matter where the energy comes from, that’s number one. We have that take care of jobs and energy for the people. But we also need to, as much as we can, do it in an environmentally sensitive way. And for instance, natural gas production and provision of energy through natural gas is a very environmentally sensitive way of providing for America’s energy.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Not invited to the party was Craig Stair, the founder of Climate Action Now, who staged a two-person protest outside the event.
CRAIG STAIR: He simply serves the nuclear industry rather obviously, without regard to what I call obvious problems connected to it that science has overwhelmingly proven exists. Even in this week’s New York Times, they had the editorial, you know, "Warning to Global Warming," where the Bush administration was basically being advised to start getting real like the rest of the world. I think Pete Domenici could do more in that direction. I think he has tons of influence as a politician. He’s very powerful politician and I think he’s doing far less than ought to, if he were really being responsible as representative of the people and planet he’s living on.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: For CorpWatch and Democracy Now!, I’m Pratap Chatterjee.