Note: See The New Republic’s corresponding story.
Gov. Haley Barbour’s former lobbying firm, BGR Group, has changed its website since the Mississippi Business Journal published the story “Barbour’s Kemper Connection” on April 25 noting Barbour’s frequent praise of the proposed Kemper County clean coal project. The state Public Service Commission voted for a conditional approval of the $2.4 billion project April 29.
The story said BGR Group “prominently features (Kemper’s) DOE funds award as a client success story on its website, saying the firm, ‘Negotiated successfully with the U.S. Department of Energy to approve the transfer of a clean coal power plant to a new location and approval to transfer the funds that had been appropriated for the project.'”
BGR has since eliminated “Client Successes” from its website. Click here to see the previous version and here to see the current version . You may also view a pdf of the old site here . BGR has also removed Southern Company from its client list. However, the site does list Southern Company as a client on its Energy, Commerce & Green Technologies page.
BGR helped Kemper secure $270 million in DOE funds in December 2008. The funds were left over from Southern Company’s proposed Orlando Gasification Project that was cancelled after Florida decided the state was not interested in more coal plants.
Southern Company has been a BGR client since 1999, having spent a total of $2.6 million with the firm, according to federal lobbying disclosure documents. Southern is one of the largest U.S. electricity producers, serving 4.4 million customers in four states. Barbour lobbied for Southern Company until running for the governor’s office in 2003.
When asked about BGR’s role in securing DOE funds for Kemper, Mississippi Power Company CEO Anthony Topazi said, “I’m not aware of Gov. Barbour’s previous firm being involved in getting us the money. We applied for the CCPI-2 (Clean Coal Power Initiative) grant money. That was out there and available to all utilities.”
In a subsequent Mississippi Business Journal interview, Topazi said, “I met with DOE early in 2008 and received approval in May 2008 to transfer the remaining funds, $270 million, to our Kemper County project. BGR did not assist me in this matter and were not present in my meetings with DOE.”
Topazi did not directly address Southern Company’s relationship with BGR.
Barbour’s ties to his former lobbying firm were questioned in 2007 when Bloomberg News and The New Republic were leaked a copy of his blind trust, which stated he owned 48,321 shares of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., the company that then owned BGR, originally named Barbour, Griffith & Rogers Inc.
An amended blind trust submitted to the Mississippi State Ethics Commission in 2009 (see Schedule B of pdf here ), states that the governor’s shares represent less than 1 percent of Interpublic Group. The trust also states that Barbour has a “profit sharing plan” with Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. In typical profit-sharing plans, an employee receives a percentage of profits based on a company’s earnings.
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