Bill McKibben
New York Times

October 4, 2011

In 2008, Barack Obama promised to turn things around with new ethics guidelines and promises of transparency. But if two batches of e-mails released via the Freedom of Information Act — the first last month and the second on Monday — are any indication, he’s not delivering on that promise.

The e-mails, made available by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, show something just as tawdry as Dick Cheney’s backroom dealing: the State Department working with lobbyists to advance the interests of TransCanada, the company trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Canada across the center of the continent. Even as the State Department was supposedly carrying out a neutral evaluation of the pipeline’s environmental impact, key players were undermining the process.

One of the stars of this sordid drama was Paul Elliott, TransCanada’s chief Washington lobbyist for its pipeline project. Back in 2008, he was the deputy national campaign manager of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential bid. Around the time she became secretary of state, he was hired by TransCanada. Why did he get the job? Just ask Marja Verloop, a member of the diplomatic staff at the United States Embassy in Canada who oversaw environmental and energy issues. In one of the friendly e-mails between the diplomat and the lobbyist, Ms. Verloop reassured Mr. Elliott about an article that mentioned his possible conflicts of interest: “it’s precisely because you have connections that you’re sought after and hired.”

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