General James Jones Didn't Disclose Industry Ties Before Testimony at Keystone XL Hearing


The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today (March 13) on the U.S. State Department’s national interest determination for the northern half of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. 

Four witnesses will testify: Keystone XL proponent Karen Alderman Harbert, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century EnergyNASA climatologist James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and Keystone XL opponent; and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, another critic of the Keystone XL

And then there’s James Jones. He’s set to testify on behalf of the pipeline, with his affiliation listed as President of Jones Group International. He won’t be testifying at the request of the committee’s Democrats, but rather its Republicans, even though he formerly served as national security advisor to President Barack Obama.

Described as offering “high level advisory and consulting services in the areas of international energy policy,” Jones Group — which doesn’t list its clients — is far from Jones’ only career gig.

A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed Jones has several oil and gas industry ties that weren’t disclosed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the hearing.

Among other ties, BuzzFeed recently revealed Jones currently serves as a consultant for the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on behalf of Keystone XL since 2008. Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) — the contractor chosen by the State Department to conduct the environmental review for the pipeline — is an API member.

Friends of the Earth made a public call to Jones to reveal his client list ahead of his Senate testimony.

“Our representatives in Congress have a right to learn all of the pertinent facts about the Keystone XL pipeline unfiltered by corporate special interests,” reads the letter. “Disclosing all relevant payments from interests advocating for or against the pipeline will help our representatives decide how to balance the competing information they are sure to receive.”

Below are some of Jones’ clients, revealed by a DeSmogBlog investigation.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chevron

Prior to joining President Obama’s  team as national security advisor in 2008, Jones served as the President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, a position he held since March 2007.

According to a January 2014 U.S. Chamber conference call, Jones met Chamber CEO Tom Donohue at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in February 2007. That’s where the two first talked about the idea of creating the institute. 

During his time heading the institute, Jones earned $900,000. Jones also simultaneously served on Chevron’s Board of Directors from May – December 2008, earning $290,000

After serving as President Obama’s national security advisor for just under two years — stepping down in October 2010 from what Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman called “Chevron in the White House“ — Jones picked up where he left off and became a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Fellow, a position he still holds today.

Photo Credit: Pete Souza | White House

Jones is now intricately involved in the Chamber’s “Energy Works for U.S.” campaign launched in January 2014. The campaign’s policy platform includes endorsement of the Alberta tar sands expansion and Keystone XL as a vehicle through which to bring tar sands to market. 

Some of the Chamber Board of Directors‘ members are oil and gas company executives, including representatives of ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66. The New York Times revealed Chevron is a Chamber member in an October 2010 article.

Chevron gave Senate Foreign Relations Committee members $25,000 for the 2012 elections.

Atlantic Council

While sitting as CEO and President of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, Jones concurrently served as Chairman of the Atlantic Council from 2007-2009, a position he held until becoming President Obama’s National Security Adviser. He now sits as the Founding Chairman of the Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

The Council has a domestic oil and gas industry corporate membership list that includes Chevron, General Electric, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and a foreign oil and gas industry corporate membership list including BP, Eni, Shell, Setgaz, Trans Adriatic Pipeline, Oil Terminal SA, Nabucco and Transgaz, among others.

Van Scoyoc Associates

Jones also serves an adviser for the powerful lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, a position he was named to in July 2011. National Journal explained Jones will provide Van Scoyoc with “advice relating to client-service improvements, market trends, and strategic planning.”

Van Scoyoc’s oil and gas industry lobbying clients include Excelerate Energy, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, International Association of Drilling Contractors and Spectra Energy. The firm has given $2,400 to Senate Foreign Relations Committee members in the run-up to the 2014 elections so far and gave $16,509 for the 2012 elections to Committee members.

Bipartisan Policy Center

Given Jones has worked for both Democratic Party and Republican Party presidential administrations (he served as former President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Special Envoy for Middle East Security), perhaps it’s unsurprising he’s also a Senior Fellow at the corporate-funded Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC)s

Condoleezza Rice (L) and former President George W. Bush (R); Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Referred to as the “Bipartisan Lobbying Center” by investigative reporter Ken Silverstein, BPC has its own energy project which Jones co-chairs.

Oil and gas industry BPC donors — according to its 2012 Annual Report — include America’s Natural Gas Alliance, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Energy Future Holdings, Exelon, General Electric, Shell and Schlumberger. 

Akin Gump

In March 2012, law firm and lobbying giant Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld announced a partnership with Jones Group International

“The world is rapidly changing, and navigating the nuances of the many political, business and economic issues that arise between the public and private sectors is increasingly challenging,” Jones said of the partnership in a press release at the time. “I have made developing thoughtful and creative solutions to these issues a hallmark of my career, both in public service and the private sector, and look forward to putting that experience and skill to work on behalf of Akin Gump’s clients.”

Akin Gump’s current oil and gas industry-tied lobbying clients include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Shell, PG&E Corporation, Chevron, Honeywell, the Domestic Petroleum Council and Hess Corporation. Akin’s given $12,750 to Senate Foreign Relations Committee members for the forthcoming 2014 mid-term elections and gave $18,966 for the 2012 elections.


Jones also sits on the Board of Trustees for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). While CSIS doesn’t list its corporate donors, the ExxonSecrets database maintained by Greenpeace USA reveals Exxon has given CSIS millions of dollars

With 27-percent of its 2012 operating budget coming from corporations, CSIS has many oil and gas industry ties to its upper-level management. Companies represented include Chevron, ExxonMobil, Chief Oil and Gas, Energy Transfer Partners and Energy Future Holdings.

No Senate Hearing Disclosure Rules, Unlike House

With a résumé like this, one may wonder how this slipped by the Foreign Relations Committee. The simple answer: there are no disclosure rules for hearing witnesses in the U.S. Senate.

The only witness rules on the books for the Committee are that “the oral presentation of witnesses shall be limited to 10 minutes” and they should “submit an electronic copy of the written statement of [the] proposed testimony at least 24 hours prior to [the] appearance.”

The House, unlike the Senate, has “truth in testimony” rules that likely would have prevented Jones from testifying without disclosing his myriad industry ties (emphasis mine). 

“Committees shall require…that non-governmental witnesses include as part of their written testimony…both a curriculum vitae and a disclosure by source and amount of federal grants and contracts received by them and any organizations they represent at that hearing in the current and preceding two fiscal years, to the extent that such information is relevant to the subject matter of, and the witness’ representational capacity at, that hearing,” the House Committee on Rules explains.

“The purpose of these new requirements is to give committee members, the public, and the press a more detailed context in which to consider a witness’ testimony in terms of their education, experience, and the extent to which they or the organizations being represented have benefited from Federal grants and contracts related to their appearance.”

The irony of it all: Jones may have drawn more attention to his testimony by not disclosing his ties than he would have by being transparent about them up-front, as required by the House.

Ross Hammond; Photo Credit: Friends of the Earth-U.S.

Or at the very least, he may have avoided statements like these from Friends of the Earth-U.S. Senior Campaigner Ross Hammond, which he provided to BuzzFeed:

“Gen. Jones needs to come clean with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about who exactly is paying him to advocate on behalf of this dirty, dangerous pipeline and how much he is being paid.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Steve Horn is the owner of the consultancy Horn Communications & Research Services, which provides public relations, content writing, and investigative research work products to a wide range of nonprofit and for-profit clients across the world. He is an investigative reporter on the climate beat for over a decade and former Research Fellow for DeSmog.

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