(photo of legislators at ALEC's "Oil Sands Academy," courtesy of Center for Media and Democracy)
Following up on reporting yesterday by investigative journalist Nick Surgey at the Center for Media and Democracy, which uncovered an oil-lobbyist-and TransCanada funded trip by U.S. state lawmakers to tour the tarsands operation in Canada, comes the revelation that Nebraska State Sen. Jim Smith failed to report the lavish free trip in his required financial disclosure with the state of Nebraska.
The Center for Media and Democracy has filed an official complaint (embedded below) against Sen. Smith with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.
Documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy detail the $80,000-a-head trip for state lawmakers to the self-proclaimed "Oil Sands Academy" -- sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- which included trips on private jets within Alberta to view the tarsands, tours of TransCanada's facilities, and expensive dinners at restaurants with names like the "Petroleum Club." Nebraska state senator Jim Smith is the state chairman for ALEC in Nebraska, and was the sponsor of the bill (LB 1161) that fast-tracked the State of Nebraska's approval of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.
The documents show that while Ohio state Reps. Clifford Rosenberger and John Adams dutifully reported gifts totaling more than $100 from ALEC and the Government of the Canadian Provice of Alberta as required by law, Nebraska state senator Jim Smith apparently did not.
- Ohio Rep. Clifford Rosenberger reported $1466.67 in "travel" payments or expenses from the Alberta Government, and $1574.40 from ALEC; "meals, food and beverages" from ALEC are also reported
- Ohio Rep. John Adams reported $1466.67 in "travel" payments or expenses from the Alberta Government, and $1395.82 from ALEC; "meals, food and beverages" from ALEC are also reported
- Nebraska Sen. Jim Smith does not list an amount from the Alberta Government for the travel expenses paid for the chartered flight within Canada, or any amount that may have been paid by ALEC.
Sen. Smith claimed in email correspondence with journalist Nick Surgey (embedded below) that, "I covered the costs of my air travel to Canada and my lodging while travel to the oil sands region was provided by the Government of Alberta and the Canadian Ministry of Energy."
However, documents show that ALEC covered lodging for legislators attending the trip valued at $648.92 for two nights, and that Sen. Smith stayed in the ALEC room block at the Westin Calgary. The complaint lodged against Smith in Nebraska notes that ALEC "may have raised the funds for the accommodations and airfare from corporate interests, including from at least one corporate lobbying principal in Nebraska."
In fact, Smith may have received impermissible gifts from TransCanada -- which is registered as a lobbying principal in Nebraska, and is the corporation to have spent the most money lobbying in Nebraska over the past two years.
The complaint against Sen. Smith urges the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission to investigate the matter, and notes that if Smith committed a "knowing violation" of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act (NPADA), he may be charged with a Class IV felony.
Its important to point out that Sen. Smith is the Nebraska Chair of ALEC. We cover that group's clear ties to TransCanada in our state in a blog Jane Kleeb wrote.