Back Doors and Revolving Doors: The Many Roads to Power

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In my last post, I briefly mentioned ‘grass roots activist group’ EthicalOil.org, noting that their specific pro-tar sands rhetoric and tactics seem to show up rather frequently in Conservative party talking points, most recently in the case of our friend Joe Oliver, of “foreign radical hijacker” fame. Not surprisingly, it turns out the connections don’t end there. Doing some research two nights ago into EthicalOil’s web hosting I stumbled across some interesting information. Fortuitously, the folks over at DeepClimate and Desmogblog beat me to the punch, and have already come up with beautifully assembled analyses of some of the same data (head on over and read their excellent articles immediately).

Emma Pullman of Desmogblog summarizes:

 

“As previously noted, the Ethical Oil Institute was incorporated to the Edmonton law firm McLennan Ross, which has many tar sands industry clients.

The Ethical Oil Institute’s Board of Directors has two members, Ezra Levant (the creator of the ‘Ethical Oil’ myth) and Thomas Ross, Levant’s lawyer and a McLellan Ross partner. Thomas Ross is also one of ten lead partners in McLellan Ross’s OilSandsLaw.com initiative, a “slick new oilsands cross-selling strategy” and marketing campaign.

But that’s just the beginning of the connection. The websites of both OurDecision.ca and EthicalOil.org are hosted on exactly the same server and IP address as strategicimperativesonline.com. Normally this wouldn’t be surprising – it’s common for many websites to be hosted on the same server. But this isn’t a coincidence. Strategicimperativesonline.com is registered to GoNewClear Productions, a business incorporated in British Columbia to Travis Freeman, Brendan Jones, and Hamish Marshall.

WHO IS HAMISH MARSHALL?

Hamish Marshall is the President and COO of GoNewClear Productions. He is a well-known strategist and activist trainer within Conservative circles, and also served as one of two British Columbia representatives on the federal Conservatives’ national council between 2008 and 2010.

He started his political career working for Canadian Alliance MP Joe Peschisolido from 2001-2002, and for the Conservative Party doing outreach for the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition from 2002-2003. He then left his position at the Conservative-Party connected NaiKun Energy in 2006 to work in the Prime Minister’s Office as Harper’s Manager of Strategic Planning until September 2007. In 2008, he managed polling for the Conservative re-election campaign.

The Ethical Oil-Harper government revolving door doesn’t end there. Hamish Marshall is married to EthicalOil spokeswoman Kathryn Marshall, who took over last fall when her predecessor Alykhan Velshi moved into the Prime Minister’s Office as the director of planning.

Hamish Marshall, through strategicimperativesonline, has registered 32 websites. Nearly all are connected to EthicalOil.org, the Conservative Party of Canada, and the right wing Alberta Wildrose Alliance Party.

Both ethicaloil.org’s americans4opec.com and chiquitaconflict.com are hosted on the server, as is Kathryn Marshall’s personal website, kathrynmarshall.ca.”

Not quite damning enough? It gets better.

 

“The web gets really interesting when you look at the other sites registered on Marshall’s server.

Conservative Party candidates with websites hosted on Hamish Marshall’s server include Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, one of the most vocal proponents of the tar sands. Oliver’s open letter last week refers to the “environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade”. See the WhoIs profile for www.JoeOliver.ca.

Pierre Poilievre‘s www.ResultsForYou.ca website is hosted on the strategicimperativesonline server as well. A Calgary-school graduate, Poilievre is Harper’s former Parliamentary Secretary, and is currently the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Poilievre also worked for Jason Kenney, whose site www.JasonKenney.com is hosted on the same server. 

Former EthicalOil.org spokesman Alykhan Velshi used to serve as the Director of Communications for Kenney. And Velshi’s mother, Rumina Velshi, was just appointed by John Oliver to the national nuclear safety commission, raising ethics questions among critics. 

For the pro-tarsands Wildrose Alliance Party, Hamish Marshall hosts both the official party websites, wildroseallancecaucus.ca and wildrosecaucus.ca, as well as numerous Wildrose Party candidate websites. This includes former leader Paul Hinman, and candidates Doug Cooper, Corrie AdolphDave Yager, Heather Forsyth, and Richard Dur. Dur is also the Chairman of Policy for Jason Kenney’s Conservative Party constituency association.

Toronto City Councillor John Parker‘s website is also hosted on Marshall’s server. 

Back in BC, Marshall hosts the website of former BC Liberal candidate Kevin Falcon. After working on Falcon’s unsuccessful run for BC Premier, Marshall went to work for BC Conservative leader hopeful John Cummins as his campaign manager. His website is also registered on Marshall’s server. Hamish Marshall is now one of the directors of the BC Conservative party

Finally, Marshall’s server hosts a website that makes campaign signs for Conservative MPs, as well as the website of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Association (OPCCA), the campus youth wing of the PC Party of Ontario is hosted on this server (campuspc.ca).

This is certainly only the beginning of an expansive web of connections between EthicalOil.org and the Conservative Party.”

Indeed it is, and it’s not just EthicalOil.org. Some additional research turns up even more contentious points of interest.

Domestic Policy, Meet Foreign Policy

If this laundry list linking current federal and provincial government employees to the ‘grassroots’ of the oil lobby isn’t quite convincing enough for you, it’s looking more and more like the tangled web of special interest groups, lobbyists and government employees extends into some other high profile areas as well. Turns out, the revolving door in question isn’t even much of a door at all, but more of a wide open frame where some kind of door should probably be.

Also hosted on Hamish’s EthicalOil.org/Conservative Party/Wildrose Alliance server is Ottawa based Jewish charity Ten Yad and Canada-Israel committee website whatwouldwedo.ca.

Whatwouldwedo.ca cotains some pretty shocking propaganda, featuring sensationalist EthicalOil.org style PR videos, militant pro-Israel articles from the ultra conservative YNet news, official IDF propaganda videos and the especially egregious manipulation of facts, flotillafacts.com.

But the really interesting part of this information is who sits on the Board of Ottawa based Ten Yad. Ten Yad Vice Chair Debbie Scharf has worked for Environment Canada since 2004 in a number of roles, beginning as a Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental Protection, then moving on to management positions in Economic Affairs & Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Trading Regimes (Climate Change) and most recently, Policy Coordination for the Chemical Production Division. Ten Yad Treasurer Elayne Adler’s linkedin profile lists her as a ‘Senior Government Analyst’.

Ten Yad Chairman of the Board Esti Fogel is the wife of Shimon Fogel, the longstanding CEO of the Canada -Israel Committee (1988-2010) and current CEO of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), which absorbed the CIC and several other bodies last July. The former CIC and current CIJA are registered government lobby groups, involved in a number of initiatives including Canada-Israel military cooperation.

The hawkish Pro-Israel stance of the Harper Conservatives is hardly ground breaking news. Harper has defended Israel’s bloody 2006 Lebanon campaign as a “measured” response, promised to vote against any UN bid for Palestinian statehood, remained conspicuously silent about Israel’s 2010 assault on a Gaza bound humanitarian aid ship in international waters that ended in the death of 9 activists (although Conservative MP Peter Kent did state that “Canada doesn’t believe a lot of noise is required in this instance”), vowed to “stand against anti-Israel rhetoric no matter the political cost to his government at international organizations” and greatly increased military ties with Israel (see Kole Kilibarda’s Canadian and Israeli Defense- Industrial and Homeland Security Ties: An Analysis).

What is fairly interesting news is how consistently the causes of special interest groups with strong ties to government employees just so happen to align particularly favourably with the foreign and domestic policy decisions enacted by the Harper regime. The network of connections and conflicting interests between these individuals and their state functions are so immediately apparent, it is almost laughable. Were anyone actually looking for it.

As Camus said in his 1951 Comedy About the Press (and if the latest performance of EthicalOil spokeswoman Kathryn Marshall is any example), In France today the simple suspicion of intelligence is enough to sink a man. But on all occasions you write that we are the most intelligent people on earth. The public no longer accepts intelligence except with idiotic commentaries. The public does not have a memory- we are its memory.”

Musings on ‘Reality’

It is a truly stupendous trick of ventriloquism that the likes of Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver, Hamish Marshall and the masterminds of EthicalOil.org have gotten so many of us to so mindlessly mouth the rhetoric of the Conservative Party back to them, no strings attached. It’s almost as though the critiques leveled against the opponents of their agenda are clever points that we came up with ourselves through much studied research and reflection (ok, with a bit of help from some completely unrelated lobbyists and ‘grass roots advocacy’ groups). Watch how convincingly the mouth moves!

As noted in my last post, this cozy three way of lobbyists/industry/government with the power to define the status quo and its “radical” outliers is something that looks very different than the admittedly imperfect but happily democratic system we believe we are living in. This is not a Harper Conservative-specific phenomenon. One need only look at the massive number of investment bankers intimately working today within the Obama administration, or examples such as former Goldman Sachs chief EU lobbyist Josh Bolton, who went from former President Bush’s Chief of Staff to Director of Office of Management and Budget. Or Linda Fisher, former assistant administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency before becoming vice president of multinational biotech giant Monsanto and then returning to the EPA as deputy administrator. Thirteen year Goldman Sachs veteran Mark Carney is the current Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of the Financial Stability Board, an international body that works closely alongside the IMF, World Bank and WTO to ‘monitor and make recommendations about the global financial system’. Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Monti, Greece’s new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, Ireland’s former Attorney General Peter Sutherland, along with numerous other high ranking government officials across Europe, all have strong ties to Goldman Sachs. Hopefully a pattern is starting to emerge for you here.

This is certainly the reality that currently exists. All of this information is there, laid out for anyone to investigate and fact check at their leisure. This is not, however, the reality that must exist. The current system that so many deem “The Reality One Must Work Within” has no intrinsic power or intrinsic value. Every aspect of it was at one time just an idea, created from the philosophies of those who have come before us, not because it was ever predestined, or even the best possible solution, but because, for a multitude of reasons, specific people made specific decisions.

The Reality One Must Work Within is not the impenetrable monolith of inevitability so many seem to treat it as. Just as specific, conscious decisions have caused us to arrive at and maintain this state of affairs, specific, conscious decisions can cause us to arrive at some very different alternative. We can do this if we work together.

I am greatly disheartened that so often when discussing this reality with others, I find the first conversation cannot be about how to build these alternatives.  Rather, that it becomes necessary to first argue that there is something very wrong at all. I am daunted by the fact it must be pointed out that a revolving door between lobby groups, industry and political offices is a problem and not some sort of elegant free market solution to meeting government demand with the most relevant experience. That it even has to be said that when government ministers speak of opponents to their agenda using the same language they use to speak of violent enemy combatants, it is a problem and not a ‘refreshingly honest’ strategy for “just getting the facts out.” That I actually have to make the argument that a government policy of unconditional, uncritical support “at any cost” for a violent, serial abuser of human rights, is a problem, and not just someone ‘standing up for their friends’. These are the barest of examples, the tip of the iceberg (much more to come on that). If you can be presented with such evidence and not see anything amiss, then I suppose I don’t have much to say to you.  I wouldn’t know where to start.

To everyone else I must ask, why do we continue to choose this particular reality? A reality which is defined by all of these actions, and so many other actions that are far, far worse. What is it that makes this particular system legitimate to us? Why do we support it? Think about it. I’m tired of being called an idealist because of a lack of collective imagination.

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