Message as Massage: “Our Energy Moment”
The rush to hire Democrats for LNG export promotion has raised the specter of conflicts of interest for the White House and its allies.
Blue Engine Message and Media, a public relations firm with deep ties to the Obama Administration, has managed “Our Energy Moment,” the primary industry-funded advocacy group that organizes press events to promote expedited LNG exports.
The Our Energy Moment coalition introduced itself to a national audience at a February 2014 panel event hosted by Politico. That event, “Energy & the 113th Congress,” was sponsored by the coalition and featured ex-State Department official turned energy industry consultant David Goldwyn, who also made an appearance in a video produced by the coalition to endorse LNG exports, along with pro-fossil fuel industry members of Congress Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).
Blue Engine is also closely connected to the White House. Since 2009, Blue Engine staff have overlapped with staff of the Common Purpose Project, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. Both Blue Engine and Common Purpose were founded and are led by Erik Smith, a former Capitol Hill aide to House Democratic Leader Rep. Dick Gephardt and an advisor to the Obama campaign.
Common Purpose has organized a weekly “Big Table” meeting that brings together top White House officials with Democratic Party-allied advocacy groups, non-profits, and think tanks, from the Sierra Club to the AFL–CIO to the Center for American Progress, to discuss strategy. Featured White House participants have included the various White House chiefs of staff, top strategists like David Plouffe and Jim Messina, and even, on at least one occasion each, President Obama and Vice President Biden. The meetings were held for years at the Capital Hilton Hotel on K Street.
On April 1, 2014, DeSmogBlog published a report on Blue Engine Message and Media’s contractual ties to “Our Energy Moment” and also on the role of Blue Engine staff in coordinating the Common Purpose project. Soon after, Blue Engine stopped being listed as the point of contact on press releases disseminated by “Our Energy Moment.” In addition, for two months following publication of the DeSmogBlog article, the Common Purpose meetings apparently ceased. Although the meetings resumed, Blue Engine and Common Purpose staffers no longer send messages to liberal groups coordinating the weekly meetings with White House staff. The meetings also have moved from the Hilton, where Blue Engine / Common Purpose staff were in charge, to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.
“Our Energy Moment” continues its campaign, with the GOP-tied firm Picard Group still doing its state-level public relations and lobbying in Louisiana. An open records request by DeSmogBlog showed that Picard Group introduced “Our Energy Moment” to Louisiana at an October 2013 press event in Lafayette, Louisiana, co-convened by Cheniere and Sempra Energy. Cheniere is a Picard Group client.
Other records obtained by DeSmogBlog show that the Picard Group was instrumental in getting the legislative template now serving as a model resolution for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), passed first in the Louisiana state legislature in March 2014, soon after an event called “LNG Day” that Picard organized in the state.
The Picard Group also put together an “Energy Roundtable” on behalf of “Our Energy Moment” in the Port of Lake Charles in August 2014. It featured Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and lobbyists representing both Sempra and Cheniere.
Blue State Digital
Blue State Digital is an email list-building and list-optimizing company servicing liberal non-profit organizations and Democratic Party candidates, including the 2008 Obama for America campaign.
According to ANGA emails we obtained, Blue State Digital serves as the host for ANGA’s email blasts. In December 2010, WPP Group — a conglomerate that owns corporate public relations firm giants such as Hill & Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller — bought Blue State Digital as a wholly owned subsidiary. Hill & Knowlton, infamous for its past public relations work on behalf of the tobacco industry, maintains ANGA as a client.