[Marxism] Icahn Raises Ethics Flags With Dual Roles as Investor and Trump Adviser

Mark Lause markalause at gmail.com
Mon Mar 27 11:56:24 MDT 2017


We get a Teapot Dome every other day.  This is precisely why the Democrats
have had no interest in going after Trump on these things.  There has been
a bipartisan loosening of these standards. If Pelosi went after Republicans
over such things. It would all start to come out in the wash.  The
bipartisan gentlemen's agreement would come to a very messy end indeed.
Who would be left? Bernie , Warren?  Who else?  Maybe the two of them hem
could form an ethics panel and purge everyone else??? :-)
On Mar 27, 2017 11:26 AM, "Louis Proyect via Marxism" <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> (Can't we finally put to rest the comparisons of Trump to Hitler, et al?
> The real historical parallel is Warren Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal.)
>
>
> NY Times, Mar. 27 2017
> Icahn Raises Ethics Flags With Dual Roles as Investor and Trump Adviser
> By ERIC LIPTON
>
> WASHINGTON — Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by
> President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been
> busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental
> Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed
> into gasoline nationwide.
>
> It is a campaign that fits into the charge Mr. Trump gave Mr. Icahn, to
> help the nation “break free of excessive regulation.” But there is an
> additional detail that is raising eyebrows in Washington: Mr. Icahn is a
> majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex.,
> that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is
> pushing been in place.
>
> Mr. Icahn, known internationally for his pugnacious and persistent
> approach to activist investing, has brought that same technique to his new
> role. He quizzed Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general, about
> the ethanol rule when Mr. Icahn helped interview Mr. Pruitt for the E.P.A.
> job. Mr. Icahn later reached out to Gary D. Cohn, Mr. Trump’s top economic
> adviser, to raise the issue. Mr. Icahn said he even had a telephone
> conversation in February with Mr. Trump himself.
>
> The blitz has already generated at least one clear outcome: Since Mr.
> Trump was elected president with Mr. Icahn’s very vocal support and nearly
> $200,000 in political contributions to Republican causes — the stock price
> of CVR Energy has soared. By late December, it had doubled. It is still up
> 50 percent from the pre-election level, generating a windfall, at least on
> paper, of $455 million as of Friday.
>
> The merging of private business interest with government affairs — aspects
> of which have previously been reported by Bloomberg, but which The New York
> Times has found further evidence of — has generated protests from ethics
> experts in Washington, as well as certain Senate Democrats. They consider
> Mr. Icahn’s dual roles perhaps the most troubling conflict of interest to
> emerge so far in the new administration.
>
> “This is a mile out of bounds by any standard,” said Senator Sheldon
> Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who, along with other Democrats, is
> sending a letter Monday to Mr. Icahn, the Office of Government Ethics and
> the Department of Justice to object to Mr. Icahn’s dual roles, and to ask
> new questions. “Were the shoe on the other foot, Republicans would be
> having fits about any Obama relationship like this.”
>
> Mr. Icahn, 81, in a series of interviews in the last week, was
> unapologetic. He said he was not subject to conflict of interest rules
> because he is an informal, unpaid adviser to Mr. Trump, not an official
> government employee.
>
> “I’m not making any policy,” Mr. Icahn said. “I am only giving my opinion.”
>
> Kelly Love, a White House spokeswoman, also dismissed the criticism. She
> pointed to the December news release when Mr. Trump first named Mr. Icahn
> “special adviser to the president” on regulatory matters. “He is simply a
> private citizen whose opinion the president respects and whom the president
> speaks with from time to time,” Ms. Love said in a written statement. “Mr.
> Icahn does not have a position with the administration nor a policy-making
> role.”
>
> Both compared Mr. Icahn’s role to corporate executives serving on federal
> advisory commissions, who are expected to argue for changes in federal
> policies while remaining corporate officers. But CVR Energy, of which Mr.
> Icahn owns 82 percent, is just one entry on a growing list of potential
> conflicts that have surfaced since his December appointment.
>
> Mr. Icahn has provided input to the White House on the selection of the
> new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He is a major investor
> in companies that have recently been targeted for enforcement action or
> investigation by the S.E.C., including CVR Energy and Herbalife, the
> nutritional beverage company, of which he owned about 24 percent at the end
> of last year.
>
> Mr. Icahn has also pressed Freeport-McMoRan, the global mining company he
> helps run as a result of his large investment, to more aggressively fight
> back against the government of Indonesia, the company’s chief executive,
> Richard Adkerson, said in an interview Friday. Indonesia is challenging
> Freeport’s contract to extract gold and copper from one of the world’s
> largest mines.
>
> The company, as that pressure from Mr. Icahn and other investors has
> intensified, has been asking for help from the State Department, Commerce
> Department and White House, Mr. Adkerson said.
>
> Mr. Icahn is “very concerned about what is happening in Indonesia,” Mr.
> Adkerson told reporters in Indonesia last month, adding that he was
> “confident the U.S. government will want to see Freeport treated fairly.”
> (Both Mr. Adkerson and Mr. Icahn said that Mr. Icahn, who controls two of
> eight seats on the company’s board, had not directly intervened with the
> Trump administration on this matter.)
>
> And while the Trump administration imposed a broad freeze on the adoption
> of new regulations — holding up dozens of new rules affecting everything
> from hybrid cars to furniture manufacturing — it surprised industry
> officials by allowing one Internal Revenue Service rule to go into effect
> in late January. The rule expands a special kind of oil and gas business
> organization with tax advantages, known as a master limited partnership,
> that Mr. Icahn cited as a primary reason he first made his big investment
> in CVR Energy back in 2012.
>
> What is clear is that Mr. Icahn has an unusual position in the Trump
> administration. During his campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly boasted of his
> ties to Mr. Icahn — calling him “my very dear friend” and citing Mr.
> Icahn’s support as a sign that “many of the great businesspeople are
> endorsing me.”
>
> His fortune, $16.6 billion, according to a Forbes estimate, is greater
> than those of all the other members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet combined, with
> investments in companies as diverse as Hertz, Xerox and PayPal, as well as
> A.I.G., the multinational insurance company, and most recently
> Bristol-Myers Squibb, the global biopharmaceutical company.
>
> Mr. Trump’s cabinet appointees, many of whom are very rich, had to undergo
> stringent reviews by the Office of Government Ethics that negotiated
> personalized asset sales agreements for each of them to help them avoid
> conflicts of interest. But Mr. Icahn is not required to take any such
> steps, given that he is an unpaid adviser rather than a formal government
> employee.
>
> Mr. Icahn has long fought against the ethanol rule, known more formally as
> the Renewable Fuel Standard. In August he wrote an unusually personal
> 11-page letter to Gina McCarthy, who served as President Barack Obama’s
> head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and one of Ms. McCarthy’s top
> deputies, with an all-capital-letter headline: “PROGRAM IS BROKEN AND NEEDS
> TO BE FIXED IMMEDIATELY.”
>
> He pushed the federal government, in this letter and other appeals, to
> eliminate the requirement that refiners be held responsible for ensuring
> that ethanol is blended into gasoline, given that the actual blending is
> often done by gas station owners, closer to the point of sale. Other
> merchant refiners like the San Antonio-based Valero Energy joined Mr. Icahn
> in pressing the E.P.A.
>
> “This is a terrible, flawed rule,” said LeAnn Johnson Koch, a lawyer
> representing a group of smaller refiners, who joined the effort.
>
> Major oil companies, like Exxon Mobil, own both the refineries and service
> stations, so they can handle this requirement. But CVR Energy and other
> so-called merchant refiners no longer handle the gasoline once it leaves
> their refineries. So they must buy renewable fuel credits — nicknamed RINs
> — to prove to the E.P.A. that they have complied with the blending of the
> ethanol and gasoline, a requirement that cost CVR $637.5 million over the
> last four years.
>
> “You are robbing refineries so that gas station owners and other players
> can make windfall profits,” Mr. Icahn said in an interview Friday, barely
> able to contain his anger at the arrangement.
>
> But the Obama administration, in November, moved to reject the request to
> revamp the system.
>
> “We were not persuaded that the program would be appreciably better at
> accomplishing its goals, with the approach that he was advocating,” said
> Janet McCabe, the E.P.A. administrator who oversaw the program.
>
> So after Mr. Trump won, Mr. Icahn took up the campaign again, this time
> gaining much higher access. First, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Icahn to help him
> screen candidates for the E.P.A. job, so when Mr. Icahn interviewed Mr.
> Pruitt, he asked him specifically about his position on the ethanol rule.
>
> “The E.P.A., in my opinion, has gone way too far, has sort of run amok
> with these crazy regulations,” Mr. Icahn said in an interview with
> Bloomberg television in early December, explaining why he supported Mr.
> Pruitt for the job. Mr. Icahn then added that Mr. Pruitt had made clear to
> him that “he feels pretty strongly about the absurdity of these
> obligations, and I feel that this should be done immediately,” referring to
> the ethanol rule.
>
> In February, Mr. Icahn set up a telephone call with Mr. Trump. The
> conversation, which took place in the lobby of Mr. Icahn’s New York
> apartment building as he was returning from walking his dog, involved a
> plan he had hatched to force the E.P.A. to revamp the rule, details of
> which were confirmed by Mr. Icahn, after being first reported by Bloomberg.
>
> Mr. Icahn confirmed in an interview Friday that he had follow-up
> conversations with Mr. Cohn, Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, and Mike
> Catanzaro, a top Trump White House aide on energy policy (and a former oil
> industry lobbyist).
>
> But Mr. Icahn’s plan has run into intense opposition from other industry
> players, including the powerful American Petroleum Institute, and a trade
> association that represents major ethanol producers like Iowa-based Poet.
> In an interview last week, Poet’s chief executive, Jeff Broin, called the
> plan a “back-room” deal. “It seems like self-dealing to me and a clear
> conflict of interest,” he said.
>
> The White House, in a statement, said no policy change was imminent.
>
> But Mr. Icahn’s actions have already generated calls for investigations,
> including a complaint filed this month with congressional officials by
> Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit group.
>
> Not uncharacteristically for Mr. Icahn, he shows no sign that he intends
> to back down in his push for the policy change.
>
> “All my life I have fought the establishment — from U.S. Steel, to eBay,
> to Apple,” he said last week, listing some of his famous battles to force
> management changes at companies in which he has invested. “I have never
> shied away from it. I am not going to now.”
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