The Canadian province of Alberta is stepping up its efforts to promote the Keystone XL pipeline project, hiring two U.S. advocacy firms with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The province’s top elected official, Premier Alison Redford, is scheduled to spend part of this week in Washington to give a speech and to “meet with several legislators and administration officials on both sides of the Keystone debate,” her office said in a press release announcing the trip, her fourth to Washington in 18 months.
In her remarks tomorrow at the Brookings Institution, a public policy research center, Redford plans to describe the economic benefits to both nations if the U.S. permits construction of the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp., according to the press release.
The project, which would connect Canadian oil sands and Gulf Coast refineries, needs State Department approval because it would cross an international border. President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s initial permit application in January 2012. He told Republican senators last month that he plans to make a decision on the company’s revised application, which is opposed by environmentalists, by the end of this year.
In addition to Redford’s personal advocacy, Alberta has hired a Washington lobbying firm, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc., and the Boston-based public relations firm of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc. The hiring of the Mehlman firm was filed with the U.S. Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on March 20, and the Rasky Baerlein hiring was filed on April 3.
Rasky Baerlein’s chairman, Larry Rasky, took a leave of absence in 2007 to serve as communications director for Vice President Joe Biden’s unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, according to his biography on the firm’s website.
Rasky also was communications director for Kerry’s first Senate campaign in 1984 and worked for Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who is the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and is currently a candidate for the Senate seat Kerry vacated earlier this year when he became Secretary of State. Rasky also was deputy press secretary for President Jimmy Carter’s unsuccessful re-election campaign in 1980.
David Tamasi, who manages Rasky Baerlein’s Washington office, is a Republican fundraiser who has worked with Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and with former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
Under the contract, which runs from March 15 to June 15, the firm will be responsible for developing and implementing “a strategic outreach plan through the remainder of the anticipated Keystone XL permit application period,” according to the filing. It also is to provide recommendations on how to “enhance Alberta’s web presence and materials to better speak to a U.S. audience and identify potential websites to advertise Alberta’s key messages.”
The firm, which has offices in Boston and Washington, will be paid $125,000 (C$ 127,475) for its work, according to its filing.
The Mehlman firm also has ties to Kerry. David Castagnetti is a Democratic strategist who was the main liaison to congressional leaders for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Kelly Bingel, a firm partner working on the Alberta account, was chief of staff to former Arkansas Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. As a House staff member, Bingel helped to form the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats in 1994.
Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti was hired to engage in “direct lobbying of U.S. government officials” on the Keystone project, according to a March 20 filing with the Justice Department. It will be paid $72,563 (C$74,000), with the contract running from March 15 to June 1, according to the filing.
Two of the firm’s principals have Republican ties: Bruce Mehlman was an assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush and general counsel to the House Republican Conference, and Alex Vogel was chief counsel to Tennessee Republican Bill Frist when he was Senate majority leader.
The latest public relations push comes as the House Republicans are seeking to circumvent Obama’s authority on the Keystone project with legislation, H.R. 3, that would force approval of the pipeline.
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