Texas Republican is throwing stones over ‘secret negotiations,’ but he’s got conflicts of interest of his own

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith

On April 22, 2010, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith of Texas and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa of California — both Republicans — asked asked nine automobile company CEOs to answer questions about their “secret negotiations” with the Obama administration on setting greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

“Given the clear conflict of interest issues at play, which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities, it’s imperative to act with the utmost of transparency,” Smith said, regarding the secret greenhouse emission arrangement.

Smith — the fifth richest member of the Texas delegation to Congress, vehemently anti-gay and a former partner of the law firm of Maebius and Duncan — has some “secret negotiation” issues himself that he needs to explain to Texas voters.

From 1989 to 2010, Smith received $403,547 in political campaign donations from big oil and gas companies.

Valero Energy and Lewis Oil, a distributor for Chevron, donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. Smith’s former law firm partner, Jeb Mabius Jr., worked for the Gulf Oil Company rebranded as Chevron in the 1980s.

The apparent conflict of interest doesn’t end there. Smith co-sponsored House Congressional Resolution 417, which would open the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil shale reserves exploration and extraction.

Smith is a staunch advocate for big oil companies and is opposed to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, stating it would raise gas prices and eliminate more than 2 million jobs.

According to the University of California at Berkley, the ACES bill would boost annual household income by $1,200 and create more than 1.9 million jobs.

So, why does our state representative oppose the bill that would limit green house emissions and help kick start our fledgling job market? I will allow you to decide as I lay out the results of my investigation.

Smith and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, recently submitted a brief to the federal appellate court in Case No. 09-17490, arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the legislative and executive branches, not judiciary, the authority to make political determinations about the impacts or injury as a result of greenhouse emissions.

Around 400 indigenous villagers of the city of Kivalina, Alaska, claim they were forced to relocate due to floods destroying their homes and business — floods that they feel were a result of global warming.

The villagers, with the help of Steve Susman, filed a lawsuit against the big oil companies whose business operations, they felt, were responsible for the global warming that lead to the destruction of their city.

The oil companies in question included ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron and other big oil producers.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Why would a Texas representative file a brief in an Alaskan case? Why would

Lamar Smith want to stop the court from determining damages that were a result of global warming?

Once the head of the Ethics Committee and currently up for re-election, Smith needs to answer what appears to be a quid pro quo issue.

So my questions are, given the clear conflict of interest issues at play — which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities — will Lamar

Smith resolve the issues around questionable campaign donations? Will he explain his opposition to the ACES bill? Will the Texas Ethic Commission investigate these issues?

C.D. Kirven is an activist and the Lambda Literary Award-nominated author of the book What Goes Around Comes Back Around. She is also a former GetEqual member and co-founder of Get Equal Now, a founding board member of DFW Pride Movement, an artist and a filmmaker who created the first LGBT cell phone documentary about same-sex intimate partner abuse. She has an online clothing line at Zazzle.com/cdkirven and is editing her online reality show about her life called: SOULPRINT. She is currently working on a screenplay, her second book and a documentary. E-mail her at cdkirven@aol.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.