A senior operative in Leonard Leo’s influence network now holds a seat on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture (EEA) task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—a task force that is increasingly dominated by anti-woke warriors and leaders in the fossil fuel industry.
Mike Thompson, a senior vice president at CRC Advisors, is now a private-sector member of the EEA task force, according to a list obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) showing task force members who attended ALEC’s 2023 annual meeting last month.
The EEA task force has been the primary conduit for the fossil fuel industry to work with climate change deniers to promote model policies that weaken environmental protections and obstruct efforts to address the climate crisis.
This includes advancing model legislation to protect the offending industry from boycotts and a bill designed to punish protestors with stiff penalties and discourage sustained, large-scale demonstrations like those used to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
As CMD first reported, Thompson took a seat on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council earlier this year and plays multiple leadership roles in the Leo network’s campaigns and communications efforts on topics such as the Right’s manufactured crisis around environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. CRC Advisors has also represented a number of fossil fuel clients.
Anti-abortion activist Marjorie Dannenfelser has described Thompson—who is also secretary and treasurer at the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP)—as a “unique and gifted convener of coalitions,” and as the “vice president for communications for CAP, the Conservative Action Project, a group of conservatives who meet every Wednesday morning very, very, very, very early,” as CMD reported.
Dannenfelser’s organization, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, works closely with ALEC to deny women bodily autonomy.
Leo teamed up with Greg Mueller in 2020 to found CRC Advisors to “funnel big money and expertise across the conservative movement.”
Thompson is also active in the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), as CMD first reported. This group of Republican state financial officers has close ties to ALEC, with one in every four members having also been affiliated with ALEC. Its priorities include battling “woke capitalism,” promoting domestic fossil fuel production, and amplifying the far-right fight against ESG as a sound investment strategy.
CRC Advisors handles the placement of op-eds, media appearances, and messaging for SFOF, as CMD exposed.
Leo’s firm also consults for many other right-wing groups on the frontlines of the fight against woke capitalism, including Consumers’ Research, Heritage Action, the Foundation for Government Accountability, and the Republican Attorneys General Association.
The EEA task force attendance list shows that Consumers’ Research Executive Director Will Hild and senior legal fellow Paul Watkins were at the meeting as well. Consumers’ Research was the top sponsor of this year’s ALEC meeting, where Hild led a workshop titled “Stopping ESG (aka Conscientious Capitalism),” as CMD reported.
Watkins, a managing partner and founder of the fintech-focused Fusion Law firm in Phoenix, Arizona, also holds an unknown position with Heritage Action.
Steve Milloy, a senior policy advisor with E&E Legal (the Energy & Environment Legal Institute), also attended the task force meeting, according to the list. In addition, the organization sponsored the ALEC meeting and provided “partial financial support” for a paper written by a fossil fuel consultant and promoted at the Consumers’ Research workshop on the purported negative financial implications of transitioning to a net-zero economy.
Milloy’s fingerprints extend to multiple groups fighting woke capitalism. As an adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), he joined Scott Shepard, director of NCPPR’s Free Enterprise Project, and Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks on a panel on “how shareholder proposals are being used to advance a social agenda and what states can do to stop it” at SFOF’s November 2022 meeting, CMD revealed.
Milloy also sits on the board of The Heartland Institute, the notorious climate misinformation group that has developed a mountain of anti-ESG materials, including “tip sheets” for lawmakers, an ESG primer presentation, testimony delivered to state legislators, op-eds, podcasts, and an anti-ESG legislative tracking map.
J. Cameron Sholty, government relations director at The Heartland Institute and executive director of its advocacy arm Heartland Impact, was also at the task force meeting.
Fossil Fuel Industry Dominates Membership
Despite the words “environment” and “agriculture” in its name, ALEC’s EEA task force primarily includes corporate members representing the fossil fuel industry.
For instance, Alliance Resource Partners, Arizona Public Service Company, Battle Group, C & C Shorelands, DCI Group, Koch Companies Public Sector, Omaha Public Power District, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, and Salt River Project are all on the attendance list for the meeting.
Michael Morgan, the lobbyist from Koch Companies, has held a seat on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council since at least the late 1990s, and Charles Koch is the second largest known donor to ALEC between 2017 and 2021, as CMD reported. Koch also sent a representative from his Americans for Prosperity Foundation to the task force meeting.
Pinnacle West Capital has contributed $91,054 to ALEC over the same period, according to research from the Center for Political Accountability.
Many lobbyists from trade associations also attended the latest EEA task force meeting. Except for the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), all of them—the American Chemistry Council, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the American Gas Association, and Edison Electric Institute—represent fossil fuel interests.
CMD documented contributions to ALEC of $37,000 (2019–21) from the Edison Electric Institute and $64,550 (2017–21) from AFPM in its most recent funding analysis of ALEC supporters.
AdvaMed’s Roxolana Kozyckyj may have attended in order to make presentations titled “Balancing Human Health and Environmental Policy” and “PFAS in the States,” according to an agenda for the meeting obtained by CMD.
Florida led the states with the most politicians (16) attending the EEA task force meeting, followed by Utah (which sent 14).
Next month the EEA task force will host an “Energy Academy” from September 21–23 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, according to a pamphlet distributed at the meeting and obtained by CMD. It states that only 15–20 state lawmakers will participate in the training from “a selection of priority states… well positioned to advance critical resource acquisition, development for America’s energy needs, and ensure the country remains fed at a reasonable cost.”
The attendance list for last month’s meeting provides an important glimpse into the composition of the EEA task force, especially since the last list CMD obtained and published was from 2021.
The full list of participants in ALEC’s EEA task force meeting on July 28 follows: