Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sleeping With the Enemy

Corporate legal power is so extraordinary through the deep pocket clients they represent that our only ally to enforce and oversee environmental regulations is the EPA. When former EPA and state regulatory officials go to work for corporate law firms who align themselves with big business clients, that are known serious environmental offenders, they betray the public's interests.

It is fundamentally wrong on it's face. 

And it does not happen by accident.

Larger law firms and individual attorneys frequently and deliberately employ "headhunters" (aka "Recruiters") to find these turncoats. The government personnel who seek private employment may not all be traitors to their agencies; they may simply be seeking to move up in their profession, and replace a civil service income with a private sector employer who pays more.  But many would argue that when attorneys move from being a regulatory watchdog enforcer to being a corporate defender, it's a step down, a big one. It's one of those career moves that raises eyebrows and questions misplaced loyalty.

The private sector is a lot less forgiving of people who "jump ship:" the corporate world frowns on this kind of unchecked revolving door policy, and forces departing employees to sign "non-compete" clauses that limit their future activities for a specific period of time after they leave the company, and make them liable for theft of proprietary information and knowledge of processes and procedures. 

Unfortunately, there are no limits in place for public officials who can walk out the door and immediately sell what they know to the highest bidder.

There should be.

We're saying all of this because we've received a press release from a reader that calls our attention to the latest "get" of one of Alabama's biggest and most powerful law firms, Balch & Bingham. 

They've recently hired a former senior environmental lawyer from EPA Region 4.
Richard Glaze Press Release
Readers of this site should be familiar with that firm, but here's a little refresher:
  • BARD lawyers--the Orwellian brainchild of Stephen Bradley (Governor-elect Bentley's transition team communications director) that's made up of some of the largest companies in Alabama. BARD (aka New Mules) gets their kicks castrating environmentalists and muscling their way into Alabama's politics. Alabama Power, Harbert Corporation and Drummond Coal are the biggest mules in the stable of  "the dirty nineteen of Alabama."
  • Represented Chemical Waste (division of Waste Management) in the infamous "Cadillac of toxic landfills" Emelle in Sumter county, Alabama.
*(The appeal which reduced the judgment to the state by millions.)
Readers can draw their own conclusions about the motives for representing these types of interests, but huge fees and bonuses probably figure into it.

We think it's important to note that S. Eason Balch is the legal adviser on the next Alabama Governor's transition team, and his sole client as a lobbyist is Alabama Power (pg. 4 of 84). You may also note that Alabama Power is also firmly entrenched on the team in other key positions. 

Alabama Power has come under fire to replace their "corporate director's veil of secrecy with a mantle of good stewardship." (LexisNexis "The Devil Made Me Do It" San Diego Law Review 1999 *requires a small fee to view)

How much influence does Alabama Power CEO Charles McCrary, chairman of Governor-elect Bentley's transition team have?
"He walks softly and carries a big stick of his organization behind him," Pate said. "He is right up in the middle of every significant issue that involves the state."

The citizens of Alabama elected individual politicians that they felt confident in to represent their interests in Montgomery for the next four years. It's beginning to look like that they elected Alabama Power and Balch & Bingham by proxy and the end result is that these two entities may have just gotten a lot more influence over state policy than they should have.

We understand the new governor wants to surround himself with the best possible people for his transition into office, but this appears one-sided and rife with certain special interests wants first and foremost.

The hiring of Mr. Glaze raises some questions in our minds because of Bentley's parroting of the phrase of "state's right's" in respect to the federal environmental regulations of businesses in Alabama along with the company he's keeping, some of whom are tied directly to Balch & Bingham and Alabama Power.

Only "yes" men need apply to this law firm.
Managing Partner Alan Rogers quoted in the Birmingham Business Journal September 2010:
“We are looking to bypass candidates who may have other attractive, tangible qualities but who also carry with them a sense that they can be disruptive or do anything that can weaken the culture that we value,” Rogers said. “We will pass on that candidate.”

The culture they value is quite apparent and against what Mr. Glaze has done with the EPA.
Mr. Glaze's accomplishments, accolades and awards while at the EPA:
  • Gold Medal for Superior Performance for Maxey Flats Superfundsite remedial action and cost recovery settlement; the EPA Special Act Award
  • Certificate of Recognition from Attorney General of Kentucky for Clean Water Act settlement
  • EPA Silver Medal for Superior Performance for conviction of four individuals and three corporations in prosecution of McWane, Inc.
  • EPA Bronze Medal for TSCA settlement with Department of Defense involving polychlorinated biphenyl remediation at Oak Ridge Federal Facility
  • EPA Bronze Medal for National Relocation Pilot Project for the Escambia Treating Company Superfund Site
  • Department of Justice Special Achievement Award for Superfund Enforcement.
He's done some impressive work on behalf of the EPA and the citizens, so why the drastic job change Mr. Glaze? With all due respect to Balch & Bingham, their history does not portray them as environmental stewards and there's some compelling irony here: Is Mr. Glaze the turning of the page for this firm? We highly doubt it.

The timing of this hire is interesting to us for a number of reasons, but there is one issue that particularly raises our suspicions about it and that someone like Mr. Glaze could be quite useful for. We know from from previously published news stories and the *October issue of The Alabama Journal that Balch & Bingham lawyers are on top of this increased EPA oversight issue and are sowing the seeds of state's rights as an argument to defeat it. Judging from the dismal performance of ADEM, it's obvious why.
*(Page 19, paragraph three)

The regulatory agency for the state, ADEM, is under fire from 14 environmental groups for its woefully inadequate job of protecting Alabama's environment and her citizens from the effects of big business run amok. These groups have filed a a legal petition with the US EPA to have ADEM's water permitting authority removed and taken over by the EPA.

It's a very serious move that has been a long time coming, and it that will have huge consequences for big business that resists compliance with federal laws. They know it and are not pleased about it. They'll argue that being made to follow the rules will cost jobs and impede the state from attracting more businesses, which resonates with the average citizen and we won't fault that point, if it was the truth that is. But it's not.

We're not against Big Business per se, we simply want them to follow the rules and be held accountable. Powerful moneyed interests have had their way in Alabama for years, to the great detriment of our state and our citizens. Some of these companies have grown so wealthy and powerful here that they are costing all of us, in fair representative government and in jobs. There are responsible corporations in the US who will not come to a state that is as wide open and plays as fast and loose as Alabama has historically demonstrated it can, and will.

We would like to say to the companies that are here, and to those that are thinking of coming here: Conduct your business, open your plants, but play by the rules, boys. Accept that corporate and legal transparency are not a bad thing.  People will be more open to what you want to do if you simply tell the truth about your intentions and your operations, and mitigate any harm by putting safeguards in place BEFORE disaster strikes, or poison spreads.

But that's not the direction we're moving, here in Alabama. These corporate giants don't like any rules except their own. Federal laws exist to be shredded and are constantly under attack and argued as "unfriendly to business." There's some truth in that, but the Mules don't want any regulations and a federal hands-off approach suits them fine.

As John Archibald of the Birmingham News so aptly says (paraphrasing): "The Mule way is the way it's always been in Alabama."

Americans are fed up with the presence of special interests in their politician's pockets and influencing government. Former governmental officials who bed-hop in their careers to what the public perceives as the enemy camp, may improve their financial postion, but they do so at risk of public ire.

In our opinion, we fear that this recent hire by Balch & Bingham is just another example of the shady revolving door policy that angers so many Americans, not just Alabamians. It's also symptomatic of the mindset of resist the rules at every turn. You need an insider to really pull that off and now Balch & Bingham has one in Mr. Glaze.

The ex-civil servants who decide to change sides bring with them a vast, intimate knowledge of their agency's workings, and personal acquaintance with the agency personnel, co-workers and supervisors, with whom they served with for years. They still have friends in these agencies and it's always hard to say no to friends when they turn up at some later date and ask for favors.

We're betting that's exactly what Balch & Bingham is counting on.

We have some advice for Mr. Glaze: Hopping into a warm bed with a willing partner is tempting, but the lamb doesn't lie down with the lion unless it wants to be lamb chops. Sleeping With the Enemy is Risky Business.

So Say We the Opinion Board of the Vincent Alabama Confidential
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  1. This is the same kind of garbage that goes on in in Washington with Congress and special interests all the time. Lose your race? Become a lobbyist for special interest and use your former contacts and influence to usurp fair and transparent processes. Whenever they try to pass a bill to put an end to it FAIL.
    Think the same thing will happen in Alabama with the special session? You betcha. They'll probably try and make it look like something great then amend it to death.
    I hate this kind of crap and you are right on in saying it's fundamentally WRONG! And yes they are turncoats!

  2. "THE REVOLVING DOOR is especially odious when government officials that are in charge of regulating corporations later become corporate employees or know that they can so become if they are obedient and do a good job of defending the corporate interests while in the employ of the government."

  3. What did the State of Alabama get for the 1,000,000,000 they paid this firm to lobby for them between 1998-2004?????

  4. Corporate legal power....it is from one corporate side to another. The private corporations, the federal government UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INC. The STATE OF ALABAMA, INC. The criminal corporations. It's a lateral move for Mr. Glossy-pants. And now he knows I know.

  5. Maybe Jeffy Boy Sessions can tell us, he's their favorite. Michael Davis, one of BB's busiest lobbyists used to be his field director.
    And while we're at it, JeffCo Sheriff's Dept. and JeffCo all have paid BB to lobby for them, among many others..it ain't what ya know it's who ya know. Ain't that right Sessions?
    Bama just loves them some BB.

  6. Glaze is yet another 'gun' in this large, full-service firm, which has offices in DC, Montgomery, Jackson, on the Gulf, provides all manner of services from bonds to lobbying for corporations and goverments. Just two interesting connections:(new rep Martha Roby's husband; Sen. Rodger Smitherman, whose wife is also a City Councillor for Birmingham). Firm members serve on all kinds of commissions and boards and are tied Mule supported entities like BARD and the Coalition for Regional Transportation, whose sole purpose is building the badly planned, so-called Northern Beltline.

  7. They've always been chest thumpers of the first order and are arrogantly proud of they're connections into the courts, regulatory agencies, politicians, ratholes, outhouses, etc.
    According to them, they know everybody to get the job done. It's sickening the way they gloat and strut.

  8. Remember 2005 and Smitherman who was with the PSC at the time and all the BB quail hunts and a trip to Columbia courtesy of Drummond?
    This crap has been going on a loooong time. I'm curious just exactly what Shelby, Sessions and Bachus aren't doing for Alabama in Washington that the state, some cities and counties have to hire these high-powered lobbyists to do....especially this firm that contributes so heavily to Sessions and Shelby.

  9. No Quarry in VincentDecember 2, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    This type of incestuous activity erodes the public's confidence in environmental protection. If Mr. Glaze had made a career change by moving to a law firm that represents citizens harmed by environmental pollution, I could endorse his move, as this would be consistent with his duties at the EPA. Sadly, this is not the case. I'd bet the farm that Mr. Glaze was lured by a lucrative pay offer from the law firm who viewed his "insider access" to be worth a lucrative salary. Will he be selling his soul in exchange?

  10. This is the same firm that Alabama AG King and soon-to-be-(thank goodness!) ex Governor of Alabama Riley were considering to hire for litigation against BP on behalf of the state right?
    There's still a lingering odor over that one that the press has not followed up on.
    The no news (Bham) did run a blurb on this hire in late October under the almost exclusively read by business section of "people on the move."
    Thomas Spencer is their environmentally inclined reporter, why no story on this? Same question to Archibald. This is not newsworthy to you two? Why not?

  11. Trust broken is trust lost.
    The republicans in Montgomery can stand on a stack of bibles 10 feet tall and go on and on about this cleaning up of the system, but I'll never believe it. Governor Bentley has shown his hand by casting his lot with special interests and their yes men. This makes me sick and really, really angry. This state will never get out of the dark ages until the voters wise up and stop drinking the propaganda of these CINO (Christian in name only) politicians.
    Sunday Christians are the worst kind of hypocrites because it's all about appearances sake, and not honestly walking the walk and talking the talk.
    I'm not one whose big on environmental things, but I'm starting to see that I may have been wrong about that. I must admit being kind of dismissive about the whole thing, that is, until I started reading this blog. You back things up and that makes huge difference when presenting issues. Thanks. I do care about my grandkids and what kind of environment they have, if not so much for myself.

  12. Arch has been busy with B'ham trivia lately (and that is useful because?)as for Spencer, he probably gets hobbled by the editors more than he wants, irregardless they were both asleep on a lot of things during the campaigns and still are IMHO. The coal mine and UA brouhaha should be front and center much more so than it is. Press in this state is useless.

  13. Glaze sold his soul when he accepted the job.

  14. Exactly right Hat, the cow has left the barn.

  15. Corporate greed and the insidious lawyers that serve as their attack dogs are enemy #1 to America. This is one of the things that I just could not understand during the Alabama elections: the press, radio and print, were going on and on about AEA and gambling controlling Alabama, which is not even close to the truth, so either they are:
    1. Ignorant and should be out of a job as citizen informers, when they can't find their behinds with both hands
    2. Inept (see # 1)
    3. Purposefully saying what they're told to say
    I suspect it's a combination of all three.
    Thank goodness for bloggers who pay attention and tell us what the real deal is. The press fails us far too often.

  16. This is absolutely something that the EPA should address and perhaps consider some sort of non-compete clause with it's senior employees, particularly the lawyers and criminal enforcement members.
    This is not the first time and it won't be the last, but you're right-it is selling info to the highest bidder and fundamentally wrong.

  17. Glaze sold his soul when he accepted the job.


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