The Podestas' hot seats on climate change

By

 Updated:

It’s Washington’s version of Family Feud, starring those well-connected Podestas. Today’s category: global warming.

In one corner, John Podesta, who served as co-chair of President Obama’s transition and was White House chief of staff to President Clinton. John Podesta’s think tank, the Center for American Progress, has been an ardent voice in favor of Congress taking bold steps to address climate change — making its views known on Capitol Hill through its action fund. American Progress has been especially critical of the coal industry’s “clean coal” campaign, calling it a “smoke screen” aimed at delaying meaningful action on global warming.

In the opposite corner, John’s brother, Tony Podesta, one of Washington’s most successful lobbyists — who picked up a significant new client as the climate debate revved up in the House this spring, according to the just-filed lobbying disclosure forms for the second quarter of the year. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) — the very industry group derided by John Podesta’s group — paid Tony Podesta and five other lobbyists in his Podesta Group $50,000 in the second quarter to help represent its interests on the climate bill passed by the House in June.

The clean coal folks “have a great lobbyist working on behalf of them for an ignoble cause,” said Dan Weiss, director of climate change strategy for the Center for American Progress and its action fund. “But I’m confident that the majority of the Senate will not agree with ACCCE and will instead want to move forward with requiring pollution reductions right now.” Weiss said he had not previously heard that ACCCE had hired Tony’s firm: “That tells you what you need to know about how closely we work with them.”

Lisa Camooso Miller, spokeswoman for ACCCE, says she understands that the group’s choice of representative might look odd, but said John and Tony “are both two high-level and highly respected Washington names, who just happen to share the same family.” She said the decision to hire Tony’s firm came down to quality: “They are a tremendous resource to us in understanding and working with members on the Hill.” ACCCE, as the Center detailed in a special report, technically does not oppose climate legislation, but has voiced concerns about the potential for high electricity costs for consumers. Miller says that remains a leading issue as the debate moves to the Senate.

ACCCE is one of at least nine clients that hired the Podesta Group to work on the big climate legislation — the American Clean Energy and Security Act — this spring. The roster also includes oil giant BP America, refiner Sunoco, flooring manufacturer Shaw Industries Group, as well as the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Also working hard on lobbying the climate bill is Tony’s wife, Heather, a former aide to ex-New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and other Hill Democrats. Her firm, Heather Podesta + Partners, LLC, represents Southern Company, Marathon Oil, United States Steel, and others. But as with her husband’s firm, her client clientele is not all from the fossil fuel industry, and includes an alternative energy firm, ClimateMaster, leading manufacturer of geothermal equipment.

None of the Podestas could be immediately reached for comment. But we’ll go ahead and speculate that the Podestas’ Thanksgiving dinner should be interesting.

Aaron Mehta and Caitlin Ginley contributed to this report.

Follow the Center on Twitter and Facebook.

Care about freedom of the press? Support independent investigative journalism.

Donate now
Donate now