Canadian pipeline company TransCanada (now called “TC Energy”) bribed a Nebraska County Commissioner, offering a “bonus” of $49,000 if the Commissioner “worked well with them” to see that its controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline project was ushered through to completion.
The details of the bribe are laid out in a “conflict of interest” disclosure letter sent to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC) by Holt County Commissioner William Tielke — who happens also to be a landowner on the proposed KXL route, who was paid an unknown amount by TransCanada to allow KXL to cross his own land.
In the letter (embedded below), Tielke acknowledges the entanglement of the personal contracts with the foreign company that has business before the county, and also mentions the shocking $49,000 bribe offer as a footnote.
“Description of Potential Conflict of Interest: Keystone XL has an easement to cross my land I have been fully paid fqr [sic] all damages and easements received all payments. But they do say they will pay me around 49,000.00 when project is completed if I work well with them,” Holt County Commissioner William Tielke wrote in the disclosure letter to the NADC.
In his response to Commissioner Tiekle’s acknowledgement of the bald-faced pay-to-play offer from TransCanada to grease the wheels to get Keystone XL built, NADC executive director Frank Daley wrote back that Tielke indeed has a “conflict of interest” that should compel him to recuse himself from participating, discussing or voting on any matters concerning TransCanada.
“If the pipeline is completed, you will receive approximately $49,000. If the pipeline is not completed, you will not receive the money. Therefore, you have a conflict of interest as to matters coming before the county board which would either facilitate the completion of the pipeline or impede the completion of the pipeline. In such circumstances, you should abstain from participating, discussing or voting on the matter,” Frank Daley, executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC), wrote in reply to Holt County Commissioner William Tielke’s disclosure of a bribe offer and conflict of interest with TransCanada.
Bold was alerted to this indisputable evidence of TransCanada bribing a Nebraska County Commissioner by local landowners, who started digging into potential conflicts of interest on Keystone XL after witnessing a similar incident where Commissioners in Cherry County were compelled to recuse themselves from decisions on a proposed wind farm, after personal contracts between Commissioners and the wind project developers were uncovered.
After discovering the shocking bribe offer made by TransCanada, landowners found evidence that Holt County Attorney Tom Herzog was asked back in 2012 to review an acknowledgement from Commissioner Tielke that he had signed contracts with TransCanada to allow KXL to cross his land, and render an opinion (embedded below) on whether the deal constituted a conflict of interest — but made no mention of TransCanada’s $49,000 “bonus” payment offer to Tielke to help ensure KXL was built.
The matter has been submitted to both the NADC, and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.
Bold has made additional inquiries with the NADC to provide us with any public records of all disclosures made by all Commissioners in all Nebraska counties along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route — as it’s only logical that TransCanada made similar efforts to buy off County Commissioners all across the state.
We encourage fellow KXL opponents in South Dakota and Montana — as well as Oklahoma and Texas, where the “southern leg” of KXL was built in 201X — to make similar inquiries into TransCanada bribing county officials in their states.
“Time and time again citizens have raised serious questions about the entanglement of a foreign corporation with our local and state government. Time and time again we get patted on the head as if the concerns we are bringing up is some conspiracy theory. We need this blatant bribery and conflicts of interest to end and for fairness to be restored,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska Founder.
While TransCanada’s direct effort to bribe Nebraska officials is shocking, it’s certainly not the first instance of TransCanada attempting to pay-to-play with Nebraska’s elected officials to get KXL built.
In 2013, Nebraska State Senator Jim Smith failed to disclose he took an all-expenses-paid (by TransCanada) trip up to Alberta, Canada to visit the region where the tarsands are mined, and be wined and dined by Big Oil with other officials from Nebraska and other states at the “Petroleum Club” during an “Oil Sands Academy” sponsored by TransCanada and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
In 2010, then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning embarrassingly were compelled to return illegal campaign contributions from TransCanada — a foreign corporation.
A full investigation into TransCanada’s campaign to bribe Nebraska elected officials is clearly called for by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, and the Attorney General of the State of Nebraska. Additionally, Bold calls on the State Legislature to convene a special committee to look into these bribes and backroom deals, as well as TransCanada’s constant bullying and harassment of landowners around their property rights.