Lobbying past could complicate Barbour campaign

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Efforts to change U.S. immigration laws stalled in Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

During that period, Barbour's firm also represented the Bolivian government on trade and counter-narcotics and Honduras on food assistance programs and immigration. Describing the Honduran account, the firm said in December 2002 it was monitoring "events with regard to U.S. immigration policy in Central America."

Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration think tank, said through a spokeswoman that he only had a slight recollection of Barbour being part of the discussions and recalled Griffith being more involved.

Even if Barbour played a minor role in the immigration discussions, his firm's connection to Mexico could raise questions among conservatives who oppose efforts to ease immigration policies.

— ETHANOL: From 2000 to 2004, Barbour's firm received $860,000 in fees from the Oxygenated Fuels Association, a trade association that represented companies that produced fuel additives for gasoline, including methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. The trade group was often at odds with the ethanol industry, a direct competitor in the oxygenated fuels market and a powerful force in Iowa, home of the nation's first presidential caucus.

In the 1990s, the federal government required a minimum level of oxygen in gasoline to help fuel burn more cleanly, prompting most refiners to use MTBE, although some used ethanol. Farm-state lawmakers tried to help bolster ethanol's use as an oxygenate but ran into opposition from oil interests and those representing MTBE.

In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency urged the phasing out of MTBE after it found that the additive could leak into ground water and pollute drinking water. Several states banned MTBE in gasoline.

During the period Barbour's firm represented the trade group, the fuels association often criticized the ethanol industry's federal subsidies and argued that using ethanol in reformulated gasoline would raise costs.

In 2000, the trade group pointed to a study by the Congressional Research Service that found using ethanol in reformulated gasoline would raise costs for motorists in Chicago and Milwaukee. David Liddle, an OFA spokesman at the time, said the study "proved conclusively that ethanol is not ready for prime time" as an additive in gasoline.

"The ethanol industry is fleecing the citizens of this country. Through its massive 54-cents-per-gallon federal subsidy, it has its hands in the taxpayers' pockets on the production end, and ... is siphoning money from the wallets of consumers at the pump," Liddle said in June 2000, a few months after Barbour's firm began representing the trade group.

MTBE manufacturers later sought product liability protection from lawsuits over drinking water contamination, a provision that failed to win approval in Congress. A 2005 energy law required the use of more ethanol and lifted an oxygenate requirement, prompting refiners to stop using MTBE as an additive.

It remains unclear whether the connections, now a decade old, will affect Barbour's standing with corn farmers who produce ethanol in Iowa. Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, which represents ethanol producers, said they hoped "Gov. Barbour, after spending significant time in the state, appreciates the role ethanol and renewable energies can and must play in our nation's energy strategy."

— FEDERAL SPENDING: Barbour's firm lobbied on behalf of three universities, including the University of Mississippi, his alma mater, helping secure tens of millions of dollars in federal funding.

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