Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) tried to use the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to intimidate a utility executive who testified against the Waxman-Markey climate bill.
Immediately after MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company Chairman David Sokol testified against cap-and-trade on June 9, Rep. Markey sent a letter to FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff asking for an investigation of MidAmerican.
Although Rep. Markey quickly sent up a follow-up letter asking FERC not to focus on solely MidAmerican but on all investor-owned utilities, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee rebuked Markey on June 12:
… Our witnesses… have every right to expect that in
exchange for their honesty with us, they will not be subjected to sanction, retribution and vengeance simply because the facts and opinions they offer do not square with those of the Committee’s members. Exercising the power of the Majority requires a special responsibility to protect witnesses.
… As the hearing was still under way, however, Mr. Sokol and his company became the focus of apparent intimidation when Chairman Markey by letter dated the day of the hearing, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to answer specific questions about investment and transmission-related activities of MidAmerican Energy and its parent, investor Warren Buffett…
… An after-the-fact rationalization, however, does not change the appearance that Chairman Markey’s June 9 letter to FERC was intended to badger and harass a witness whose offense was merely daring to disagree with Mr. Markey on a matter of professional experience and knowledge.
Mr. Sokol, who voluntarily testified at Congress’s request on Tuesday, could assume from his trip to Washington that if you are a good citizen and you agree to testify truthfully before the Congress, you better make sure that your views do not conflict with those of the ruling Majority. Otherwise, you will risk having the Majority abuse its powers by sending a government regulator to harass you and your company.
We have grave concerns about Chairman Markey’s actions and their implications for the future. Not only might they damage the reputation of this Committee as being a place where truth is welcomed and honest debate is cherished; it could well make all witnesses think twice before accepting an invitation to appear before us to tell us something other than exactly what the Majority wants to hear. Honest, fair public policy can only be made if a full range of opinions are presented to Congress, not just what the Majority wants to hear.
Sadly, this is not the first time the nation has seen this sort of troubling behavior from its officials. As you know, within the memories of many of us, agents of the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies were systematically dispatched to cow dissidents and smother protest against government policy. Just this week the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee instructed Democrat health care lobbyists not to meet with Republicans. If a pattern of intimidation and bullying is being created by the Majority party, it is a sad thing. As members of the Minority party, we will do everything possible to stop this emerging pattern.
We implore you to take whatever actions are necessary to make certain that this sorry episode is vacated and never replicated. Rather than trying to explain his way around his specific questions that FERC has not answered yet, Chairman Markey should explicitly rescind his request to have FERC pry into the activities of Mr. Sokol, Mr. Buffett, and MidAmerican. No company in America or its employees should be harassed. We are confident that you agree with us on the basic protection all witnesses before our committee have a right to expect…
Will the real Luca Brazzi please raise his hand?