Ag Policy Blog

Carl Icahn and Public Citizen Spar Over Lobbying Laws

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, a special advisor to President Donald Trump, may have violated federal lobbying laws in his push to change the Renewable Fuels Standard.

The watchdog group Public Citizen leveled that allegation at Icahn and his businesses on Wednesday in a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Senate and the clerk of the House. Public Citizen said Icahn and his companies, Icahn Enterprises and CVR Energy Inc., have failed to file papers under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. http://www.citizen.org/…

Icahn, however, responded by calling the allegation both "fake news" and a "witch hunt."

As DTN's Todd Neeley and others reported last week, Icahn has been asking the White House to change a rule in the Renewable Fuels Standard regarding the point of obligation. https://www.dtnpf.com/…

As Todd stated in his articles, Icahn wants to change the point of obligation for meeting the RFS from refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel to ethanol blenders. That would shift responsibility for the RFS from hundreds of companies to thousands.

If you followed Todd's coverage, then you know that news reports initially stated last week there was going to be an executive order coming from the White House to do just as Icahn asked, then the White House declared no such executive order was coming.

Icahn, however, has pushed hard on this because his company reportedly spends $200 million a year buying RFS credits -- RINs -- to meet its obligations under the RFS. Such spending on the RINs was actually supposed to push companies into investing more into advanced biofuels and cellulosic production rather than simply lobby to change the rule. But petroleum companies, and billionaire investors, were convinced they could beat the RFS in court or lobby their way out of the obligations.

Icahn wrote an op-ed in the Hill on Wednesday responding to Public Citizen and called the group's allegations a "gross misstatement of the facts," "fake news" and "a witch hunt." He stated, "I have vetted my activities with a number of lawyers and it is clear that no registration is required."

Icahn instead said the entire issue was obfuscating the real problem, which is "the continuing economic devastation being wrought by the Environmental Protection Agency's corrupt Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) trading program."

From Icahn's perspective, the issue is not one of the undue influence by a billionaire advisor to the president of the United States seeking to use that position to get a regulatory rule change favoring his businesses. No, the far greater problem here is the EPA blending rule that puts a great deal of burden on billionaire advisors to the president and their personal holdings.

Icahn, in his op-ed, also stated he is trying to protect minority-owned mom-and-pop gas station owners from suffering at the hands of EPA regulatory overreach. http://thehill.com/…

Icahn's response bumped up the ante for Public Citizen. The group -- responding to Icahn's response of the original complaint -- then called for the Department of Justice to look into the issue.

As Public Citizen stated, "Icahn not only advised Trump’s presidential campaign, but he served as a top transition team official, vetting the eventual EPA nominee and advising the president-elect on regulatory policy. Additionally, Icahn currently serves as Trump’s special adviser on regulation.

"Regardless of the merits of shifting the RFS point of obligation, the issuance of an executive order that could directly benefit a close adviser to the president creates significant financial and ethical conflict of interest concerns. The U.S. Department of Justice must launch an immediate investigation into the role Mr. Icahn played during the transition and currently plays as a formal adviser to the president." http://www.citizen.org/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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If I had to spend $200 million per year to buy paper to comply with the RFS by now I would have started to buy ethanol to blend with the gas I was refining. But then again that would reduce the amount of market share for gas something these oil companies will never do unless forced to. With all the talk of draining the swamp it sure seems like there are a lot of swamp monsters in key positions within the inner circle of advisors to the Liar In Chief.