James Connaughton was President Bush’s top environmental advisor, which was a little like being Tony Soprano’s nonviolence advisor. He got a new job last week as executive vice president of Constellation Energy. Constellation’s holdings include a major East Coast power company, and the Fortune 500 company is one of the world’s major coal transporters and suppliers. He’ll be Constellation’s environment guy.

Connaughton, who distinguished himself as a defense attorney for the asbestos industry before his protecting-the-environment gig with the Bush administration, is not the only one who sees climate-related issues as a growth industry amidst trying times.

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) compiled this list of former congressmen now registered to lobby on climate. CPI also tallied the number of lobbyists registered on all sides of the climate issue: There are now more than 2,300 in Washington, a threefold increase in just one year. Climate lobbyists outnumber senators and congressmen by more than four to one.

Both parties have joined the party: Former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt is signed up to lobby for Peabody Energy. Former Republican House Speaker Bob Livingston is Ashland Oil’s man. Tony Podesta, brother of Obama transition team boss John Podesta, has BP and Sunoco. Drew Maloney, a former top aide to former Rep. Tom DeLay, works for the American Petroleum Institute.

None of this is new for Washington, of course. Nor does it bode well for the “change” that President Obama vows to deliver. Spencer Abraham, who became Bush’s first Energy secretary after losing his Senate seat in 2000, is CEO of AREVA, the French nuclear company.

Gale Norton, Bush’s first Interior secretary, is a corporate counsel for Shell Oil.

Andrew Lundquist was executive director of Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force, which famously held countless meetings with fossil fuel companies while limiting conservationists to one meeting (which Cheney skipped). Lundquist leapt directly from the White House into the consulting game, where one of his partners was Gale Norton’s deputy, Steve Griles. Griles ended up serving 10 months in the slammer for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Jeff Holmstead, who was in charge of air pollution regulations at EPA, is now on that long list of lobbyists from his perch at Bracewell Giuliani, the Texas-based law firm that’s represented much of Big Oil for years. B&G has also gone to work for the windpower industry in recent years. And yes, the “Giuliani” is Rudy, but he’s not active in the energy side of the firm’s business.

(Hats off to journalist Osha Davidson for running these down).

DeSmog Blog, which specializes in smoking out falsehoods about global warming, called attention to this December 2008 newsletter from the Hawthorn Group. Hawthorn is a Virginia-based PR firm that was central to the coal industry’s ginormous ad buy and PR campaign on behalf of “Clean Coal” during the ’08 election campaign. Hawthorn calls its advertising and guerilla media campaign a “game changer,” turning around public opinion on the promise of burning coal without hurting the environment. From slick ads on the cable news networks, to outfitting “Joe the Plumber” with hats, T-shirts, and other coal swag, the campaign spent a princely sum to effectively underwrite election coverage on CNN and other networks.

Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress analyzed the coal industry’s campaign. He tallied at least $45 million in ad buys during 2008. While serious doubts were being raised about the viability of “clean coal,” the industry spent $17 on ads describing clean coal research for every $1 actually spent on the research. The Department of Energy’s “clean coal” public/private pilot project, FutureGen, collapsed last year.

Mark Maddox was the assistant secretary at the DOE who oversaw FutureGen. He’s started work with Arcadian Networks, a wireless communications firm specializing in the energy industry.

I can’t resist adding one more who went through the revolving door, though his links to environmental issues are thin: Former FEMA Director Michael Brown became CEO and board member of InferX, a security technology company, in 2007. He was removed from both posts in 2008. No word on whether Brownie did a heckuva job this time around.


Peter Dykstra is the former executive producer of CNN's Science, Tech and Weather Unit. He writes three columns for MNN: Media Mayhem on Mondays, Political Habitat on Wednesdays, and Green States on Fridays. (Yes, he writes a lot.)

Political Habitat: Hanging out the 'Now Hiring' sign
Recession? What recession? Step right up as the coal industry is loading up on lobbyists.