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Flacking for Gore

Katie’s New Gig

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

Early this spring a troop of second-tier DC lobbyists and Democratic Party bureaucrats gathered a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House at the law offices of Holland and Knight. They were part of a team assigned to the desperate mission of finding some way to salvage Al Gore’s sundering campaign. This particular session plotted the creation of an ad hoc group to flack for the Veep on green matters. They agreed to call themselves Environmentalists for Gore.

Oddly, there were no full-time environmentalists in the room. Odder still was the location of the meeting. Holland and Knight is not regarded as one of the do-gooder lobby shops on the Hill. Instead, it’s roster of clients include such major air polluters as Northern States Power, Teco Energy and Tampa Electric, prime Everglades destroyer South Florida Water Water Management District, various trade associations for companies that generate hazardous waste (Asphalt Emulsion Manufacturer’s Association National Paint and Coatings Association), Clorox, Consortium for Biotech Research, Superfund Action Alliance (a group of waste producers seeking to undermine Superfund) and what is widely regarded as the most viciously anti-environmental outfit in Washington, the Chemical Manufacturers Association.

If the site of this session might raise eyebrows, one of the key organizers of the event certainly wouldn’t. Her name is Kathleen Alana McGinty, Gore’s long-time aide, who has returned from a two year stint in India just in time to help massage one of Gore’s most pissed off constituencies.

There are few people closer to Gore than McGinty, one of only two staffers permitted to call the Veep “Al.” The other is Gore’s hawkish national security advisor, Leon Fuerth, who many predict will be Gore’s choice as CIA director if he is elected president.

McGinty grew up in Philadelphia, the daughter of an Irish-American cop in Frank Rizzo’s police force. She got a degree in chemistry at St. Joseph’s University and soon went to work for ARCO, the oil/chemical giant. A few years later McGinty pursued a law degree from Columbia in the Science, Law and Technology program. Before joining Gore’s Senate staff, McGinty did a stint in DC as a lobbyist for the American Chemical Society, where she fine-tuned the kind of techno-speak that Gore finds irresistable in a staffer. In answering a reporters’ question about her favorite hobbies, McGinty once said: “Hiking and reading books on civic realization.” It was a response only Gore could find endearing. McGinty became Gore’s top environmental aide in 1990, helped him research Earth in the Balance and accompanied him to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

In 1993, McGinty, then only 29, was tapped to head the White House Office of Environmental Policy, a newly created panel that Gore pushed for to give him more of a presence inside the White House. The move didn’t sit well with members of congress or some Clinton staffers who felt Gore was grasping too much power, including chief of staff Mack McLarty, Harold Ickes and Hillary. Ultimately, the office was merged with the Council on Environmental Quality, which oversees compliance with environmental laws by federal agencies. McGinty was named as its chair.

The next three years where bleak ones for environmentalists, as Clinton and Gore retreated from one campaign pledge after another, from granting a permit to the WTI hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio to a deal with sugar barons in the Everglades to the resumption of logging in the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, culminating in the Salvage Logging Rider, which exempted timber sales on national forest lands from compliance with all federal environmental laws.

“Katie seemed out of the loop most of the time she was there,” a seasoned environmental lobbyist told CounterPunch. “Or that’s how she made you feel. Katie’s great talent was to seduce you on the phone. She made you feel as if she was your best friend, a secret Earth First!er, who was shocked and pained when the inevitable betrayals came. Katie never delivered bad news herself, but she was always there to console us. She was very, very adroit at soothing irate enviros, calming them down so that they wouldn’t attack the administration.”

At the height of the budget negotiations in 1998, McGinty shocked many in DC when she abruptly announced that she was resigning from her post and was moving to India to take a job at the Tata Research Institute in New Delhi, India. TERI is an obscure sustainable development group that receives funding from the UN and works on energy, biotech and forestry issues. McGinty’s husband, Karl Hausker, an employee of the CIA-linked Center for Strategic and International Studies, was assigned to India. Many thought McGinty would stay in DC, where her power in the administration would increase as the 2000 election approached. But apparently Tipper Gore convinced McGinty that she should follow her man.

Tipper has taken an unusual interest in McGinty’s personal life. In 1995, Tipper learned that McGinty had repeatedly postponed her marriage to Hausker citing the “crushing workload” that kept her tied down at the White House. Tipper intervened, handled the wedding arrangements and shipped the newlyweds off on a month-long honeymoon to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests of Papua, New Guinea.

McGinty returned to the states in this winter. It didn’t take her long to find a job. Not with the Gore campaign, but as the legislative affairs director of Troutman Sanders, a notorious DC law firm with a reputation for defending the worst corporate polluters and using its lobbying might to carve up environmental legislation. One of the firm’s star litigators, Daniel Reinhardt, successfully defended Mobil Oil Company in one of the first cases involving leaking underground gas storage tanks. Reinardt has also been retained on various matters by the Georgia Power Company defending it, as Reihnhardt notes in his bio, “in matters as diverse as alleged negligence in connection with electrocution injuries and death to alleged property damage to crops as a result of early defoliation allegedly caused by emissions from Georgia Power Company facilities.” Then there is Eric Szweda, who boasts of “defending a client against a Clean Water Act citizen suit brought by the Sierra Club in the Middle District of Georgia” over “alleged violations of industrial waste water permit limits for thermal discharges.” Szweda also claims that he “achieved dismissal of a client from a class action lawsuit comprised of landowners adjacent to Georgia’s most high profile Superfund site.”

But Troutman Sanders’ real expertise in DC comes in the area of energy. It represents a suite of utilities and power companies seeking to deregulate the nation’s electricity market, including the Allliance for Power Privatization, Boston Edison, Edison Electric Institute, Minnesota Power and PG&E. The firm has been a fearsome foe new air quality standards (many imposed by the EPA when McGinty was at the CEQ) and the Kyoto protocol on global warming, an already weak treaty that McGinty helped negotiate. McGinty was recruited to Troutman Sanders by Thomas Jensen, who had worked under McGinty at the CEQ from 1995 through 1997, where he was the Associate Director for Natural Resources. Since joining Troutman Sanders in 1997, Jensen’s resume boasts that he has provided “strategic advice” on global climate policy to big energy firms, counseled an oil pipeline company on Endangered Species Act “litigation and related advocacy”, assisted an “air emissions broker” in international pollution credit transactions, and advised a railroad company on NEPA compliance regarding the location of its “intermodal transit facility.”

Still Troutman Sanders isn’t what you’d call a Democratic law firm. A search of the FEC database relieved that members of the law firm have doled out more than $50,000 in the last year. Of that amount $11,000 went to George W. Bush and $5,000 to Tom DeLay’s Keep Our Majority PAC. In all, the firm gave less than $3,000 to Democrats, $1,000 to Gore, $1,000 to his nemesis Bill Bradley and $750 to Senator Max Cleland of Georgia.

But none of this should be reason to question Katie’s true loyalty. “There would be no higher priority I would have,” McGinty said, “than to help or serve Al Gore.” CP