It is an ethics violation for elected officials to use their political office to perform official acts on behalf of special interests, and particularly when special interests are campaign donors. There is also a serious problem when a sitting congressional representative performs official acts for personal financial profit by promoting a project the representative has a financial stake in. The problem becomes egregious when the elected official lies about a project to profit himself and campaign donors and our current Speaker of the House has taken those issues a step farther. On Thursday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) received a complaint from an environmental group with accusations that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s owners (TransCanada) are in violation of SEC Rule 10b(5) – Employment of Manipulative and Deceptive Practices to bolster stock prices.
The complaint sent to the SEC said TransCanada is using “false or misleading statements about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline” and that they “consistently used public statements and information it knows are false in a concerted effort to secure permitting approval of Keystone XL from the U.S. government.” The complaint continues that the fallacious information misleads investors, U.S. and Canadian officials, the media, and the public “in order to bolster its balance sheets and share price,” and who is the point-man pushing the Keystone XL pipeline with lies and misinformation? Speaker of the House John Boehner.
The complaint specifically highlights that TransCanada asserts that the pipeline will create American jobs “at a rate that is 67 times higher than job creation totals given by the company to Canadian officials for the Canadian portion of the pipeline.” The inflated job creation numbers were designed to pressure President Obama to issue an approval permit to build the pipeline and without its construction, TransCanada’s future earnings and share prices will be significantly impacted. Speaker Boehner owns shares in seven different Canadian tar sand companies and it is highly likely that he knows the job numbers are inflated as an investor and stands to profit if the pipeline is built. Boehner went so far as threatening to tie 160 million working Americans’ payroll tax cut extension to approval of the pipeline. Boehner’s extortion threats were the last straw, and inspired a national petition to force him to resign or face expulsion from Congress for ethics violations. However, ethics violations are the least of Boehner’s problems once the SEC finishes their investigation which they confirmed is actively under consideration.
To be fair to TransCanada, they accurately provided Canadian regulators with realistic job numbers as well as the potential for environmental disaster which is, by the way, a near certainty according to TransCanada. Tar sands crude extraction is responsible for elevated cancer rates and involves razing ancient boreal forests, and there are 82% greater GHG emissions as compared to average crude refined in the United States. TransCanada also predicted that one of their existing pipelines would produce one spill every seven years, but it has produced 12 spills in less than one year. Even with one spill, over 1,000 rivers will be adversely impacted as well as the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to 2 million Americans and is the primary source of groundwater for 20% of America’s agriculture production. John Boehner never cites those issues and neither did Mitch Daniels (R), Indiana governor, who stated categorically in the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address that the Keystone XL project was “a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands.” Mr. Daniels’ financial disclosure form is under investigation to determine how much stock he owns in Canadian tar sand companies or TransCanada and if he owns shares in any of the companies, he will face a national petition drive to force him from politics forever.
As an investor, Speaker Boehner was privy to the authentic job creation numbers TransCanada reported to investors and Canadian regulators. It is despicable that Boehner deliberately lies to the American people for personal financial gain, but it is illegal to lie to influence investors and potential investors to drive up share price. Boehner, the American Petroleum Institute, and many Republicans in Congress have launched an aggressive set of attacks on the President to force him into granting a Presidential Permit, and the overriding point is that like TransCanada, they are using false job creation claims to exert pressure and convince Americans that the Keystone XL pipeline will be a boon to the economy, unemployed construction workers, and create lower gas prices, all of which are lies and they know they it.
It would be unethical for any person to use fallacious numbers for personal financial gain, but it is beyond the pale that the Speaker of the House knowingly lies to the American people and the media to boost Canadian tar sand companies’ profits and TransCanada’s balance sheets and share price. Boehner’s almost daily Keystone XL propaganda is not only unfair to President Obama and the American people, it misleads potential and current investors. Manipulating share prices is a violation of SEC regulations and if their investigation finds Boehner and other GOP shareholders deliberately inflated job numbers, a House Ethics panel will be the least of Boehner’s problems.
Speaker of the House John Boehner has some options. He can address the American people and admit that he deliberately lied for personal financial gain and to enrich the oil industry that stands to gain selling Canadian oil to Europe if the Keystone XL pipeline is built, or he can save his family the embarrassment and resign immediately. Mr. Boehner can rest assured of two things; if he does not admit to lying and resign immediately, the petition calling for his expulsion or resignation remains active, and this column will be unrelenting in demanding that, for once in his career, he serves all the American people and vanishes from politics as if he never existed. Now that the Securities and Exchange Commission is alerted to TransCanada and Boehner’s lying, it would be incumbent on him to make the right decision before they make it for him.
Special thanks to Sarah Jones for her valuable assistance.