Hoosier taxpayers foot lobbying bill for foreign company

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House’s Energy and Commerce committee, has sent a letter (PDF) to Indiana’s official lobbyist to inquire why Indiana is lobbying for the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

From the letter:

I have subsequently learned that in the fourth quarter of 2011 you received $50,500 in state taxpayer funds as a lobbyist for the State of Indiana, including for lobbying related to Keystone XL. This seems unusual as the State does not have an obvious interest in seeing the Keystone XL project constructed. The proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline does not pass through the State of Indiana, nor does it come close to the State’s borders; the nearest the proposed route would approach would be hundreds of miles away in Nebraska and Kansas. Indiana facilities would not have access to the pipeline, nor would it appear that Indiana would particularly benefit from any economic activity associated with the construction of the pipeline.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a project of a Canadian oil company, TransCanada.

The lobbyist in question is Deborah Hohlt, who frequently represents the state of Indiana. Her latest lobbying disclosure (PDF) shows a wide variety of topics, ranging from the Farm Bill to transportation issues to “Clean coal, carbon capture and storage (CCS), biofuels tax extenders, climate change, Keystone XL Pipeline”.

Deborah Hohlt is a former Deputy Chief of Staff for the Republican National Committee. She worked in public affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services, before swinging through the revolving door and working for Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Eli Lilly. (Hohlt was Director of Public Affairs at Eli Lilly from 1995-2001, where current Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was Senior VP of Corporate Strategy from 1997-2001, and President of North American Operations from 11993-1997.)

Deborah Hohlt is the wife of Richard Hohlt, the powerful lobbyist and GOP fundraiser. During the trial of Scooter Libby, Robert Novak disclosed that he had revealed the identity of then-covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to Richard Hohlt before the infamous column hit the papers. Richard Hohlt confirmed to Newsweek that he had faxed a copy of the article to Karl Rove before it was published.

A tip of the hat to Marueen Groppe for tweeting about this news bit today.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/mgroppe/status/165116358286245889″]

UPDATE: According to TransCanada’s own filings, the pipeline would increase the cost of oil across the Midwest.

UPDATE 2: Couldn’t find this link earlier, but here’s a blog post from January 26 by Josh Israel and Brad Johnson at Think Progress, which was the first I saw to note the lobbying disclosure.