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Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist

TransCanada has wasted no time since President Donald Trump signed a January 24 executive order calling for U.S. federal agencies to permit construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Calgary-based company has already re-applied for a presidential permit through the U.S. Department of State to cross the U.S.-Canada border with the pipeline and has also applied in Nebraska to build the line across that state. It also has registered to lobby the federal government, deploying lobbyist and former GOP Congressional staffer Jay Cranford of the CGCN Group, for the job.

As DeSmog has previously reported, fellow CGCN Group lobbyist Mike Catanzaro is the presumed choice for top energy adviser to President Trump. Catanzaro has a track record as a climate change denier and has lobbied for companies such as Devon Energy, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), and others.

During 2016, Cranford lobbied alongside Catanzaro for an industry client list which included Encana Oil and Gas, Hess CorporationNoble Energy, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Halliburton, and Koch Industries.

Cranford’s biography on the CGCN website reads like the prototype for the government-industry revolving door.

“[Cranford] joined John Boehner’s leadership team in 2006 when the Ohio Republican was elected majority leader. During his time with Boehner, Cranford oversaw work on six committees, including Energy & Commerce, Natural Resources and Transportation and Infrastructure,” it says. “In that role, he helped coordinate legislative strategy with party leaders, rank-and-file lawmakers and the White House.”

Cranford has worked as a pipeline lobbyist before, advocating on behalf of El Paso Corporation. Before joining the staff of Rep. Boehner (R-OH) — who himself is also now a lobbyist — Cranford served as staff director of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals. While in this position, Cranford took several industry-funded trips, funded by the likes of BP, ShellAmerican Petroleum Institute, and Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Activist Social Media Monitoring

For most, CGCN Group’s claim to fame is traced back to a memo it wrote in November 2011 to the American Bankers Association. In this memo, the firm offered to monitor the Occupy Wall Street movement on social media and do opposition research on activists involved in the cause. That memo was obtained and published by MSNBC‘s “All In With Chris Hayes.”

“Buying Access”

It only took TransCanada roughly three weeks to hire a lobbyist tied to the Republican Party to advocate for Keystone XL. In years prior, the company had spent millions of dollars on Democratic Party-aligned lobbyists in the attempt to get President Barack Obama and his U.S. Department of State (which included former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) to approve the pipeline.

TransCanada’s previous efforts involved hiring a former Obama presidential campaign manager, Broderick Johnson; a former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign manager, Paul Elliott; and Obama’s former White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn. That’s just to name a few: TransCanada’s web of lobbyists ran so deep that it inspired a cartoon video by Mark Fiore which DeSmog published in 2011.

Ultimately, TransCanada won that battle by half, with Obama signing an executive order in 2012 calling for the construction of Keystone XL‘s southern leg from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas, now known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline. Put another way, partisan lobbying pays off, and now the business is going for the other half of the line.

“[A]s Washington has become more partisan, access has become more partisan,” writes Lee Drutman in his 2015 book The Business of America is Lobbying: How Corporations Became Politicized and Politics Became More Corporate. “[A]t the most basic level, companies that are hiring multiple lobbyists are buying access. They are buying introductions. They are buying advice on who is likely to be sympathetic to them on a particular issue.”

Cranford did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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Steve Horn is a freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

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