Published on Wednesday, January 7, 2004 by the Cox News Service
Execs Pay to Play with GOP
Fund-Raiser Includes Helping Leaders Write Energy 'To-Do List'
by Jeff Nesmith
WASHINGTON -- For around $4,000, industry executives can play golf and have dinner with key congressional Republicans at a Phoenix resort today, then "help Congress write its to-do list" on air pollution and energy policy during the next three days.
They also will hear top Bush administration officials talk about an upcoming rewrite of the federal Clean Air Act and the effect of energy policy on business interests.
By the end of the week, "members of Congress, senior administration officials, Western governors' office representatives, miscellaneous policy experts and invited business leaders" will draft a "Top Ten to-do list for Congress" this year, according to a published agenda.
"Unfortunately, this is not a joke, but an actual money-for-access transaction to take place at a golf resort in Phoenix, starting tomorrow," Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust, said yesterday.
A conference schedule made public by an environmental group indicates that in addition to Western members of the House and Senate, the conference is to be attended by several high-level Bush administration officials.
Participants will pay $3,000 to play in a "Mulligans and Margueritas" golf tournament and attend a private dinner tonight with congressional Republicans. The proceeds will go to a Republican fund-raising committee.
The conference on energy and air-pollution issues will follow during the next three days, held by the Western Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The conference will focus primarily on congressional issues of concern to Western industries, but anyone willing to pay around $1,000 for registration and greens fees can attend the three-day event. It begins tonight, right after the golf tournament.
Invited participants listed on the schedule include Undersecretary of the Interior Steven Griles, Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Jeffrey Holmstead, White House Counsel on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton and Assistant Secretary of Energy Michael Smith.
The organizer of the two events insisted they were separate.
Both take place at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and its golf courses, and are organized by Denver-based lobbyist Jim Sims, who was director of communications for Vice President Dick Cheney's White House Energy Task Force three years ago.
Money raised by the $3,000 contributions required of participants in the tournament and dinner will be distributed by the Western GOP Majority Committee to Republican campaign organizations, according to the invitation.
In addition to being the sponsor of the fund-raiser, Sims is executive director of the Western Business Roundtable.
"Fund-raisers are held every day in this country for both Republicans and Democrats," he said. "This is a cheap shot. The two events are not connected, although I am sponsoring the fund-raiser."
He added that the Clean Air Trust is "part of an integrated and very sophisticated network of extremists, led by the Sierra Club and a couple of others, whose all-but-announced mission this year is the very partisan mission of unseating (President Bush)."
O'Donnell said his group is not involved in any electoral politics and is headed by a Republican, former Sen. Robert Stafford of Vermont, who co-founded it in 1995 with former Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, a Democrat. Muskie died in 1996.
The conference registration form offers participants the chance to "strategize in a casual setting with members of Congress, White House officials, federal agency leaders, Western governors, CEOs, senior business executives and policy-makers from across the West."
The goal is to make sure the West's interests are factored in when Washington writes energy and environmental policies, Sims said.
"We prefer to think we are the nation's energy breadbasket, and we are," Sims said.
Conference participants were covering their own air fare, Sims said. The Western Business Roundtable is non-partisan and has held similar conferences in past years featuring federal officials, including members of the Clinton administration, Sims said.
Copyright 2004 Cox News Service