UPDATE: Sen. David Vitter, who really wasn’t a Carol Browner fan, weighs in…
“I wish Carol Browner well on her decision to leave her position as White House climate czar. Quite frankly, she was the leading leftist advocate in the White House for shutting down Gulf drilling, so I support this positive development.
“I will also continue to pursue my demand for a high level, appropriate White House advisor to testify before the Senate about why the administration appears to have put politics ahead of science in deciding to implement their official moratorium following the Gulf oil spill,” said Vitter.
ORIGINAL: Last night the news hit that Carol Browner, the White House climate/energy czar, is on the way back to the private sector. She’ll be vacating her post in the coming weeks after losing out to Bill Daley for the post of White House Chief of Staff and also for a post of deputy chief of staff. Lose a political battle in this administration, and you’d better check out the residency requirements for running for something back home.
Browner, the architect of the president’s moratorium on Gulf offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident last April, came under intense scrutiny after a Department of Interior inspector general’s report revealed that her office was behind a fraudulent presentation of the report announcing the moratorium – Browner’s staff employed some creative editing of the Interior report which presented it as having been peer-reviewed when the panel of engineering experts the department employed has specifically recommended against a moratorium.
So it’s not a surprise that Louisiana’s public officials aren’t sorry to see Browner go.
Take U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, for example.
“Browner’s legacy is a short-sighted, misguided energy policy that crippled our American energy producers and damaged us on the international stage,” Boustany said.
“I hope this move signals a shift in the White House to take a more commonsense approach to energy issues critical to our national security and to the hard working men and women along the Gulf Coast. The administration has a chance to make significant changes to how they’ve done business with Louisiana and our energy producers, but it remains to be seen what steps they will take to demonstrate their commitment to American jobs and energy.”
There is some question whether Browner’s global-warming-voodoo-czar position will even remain, though Beltway Democrats are seeking to assure their base that they’ve not given up on any of the administration’s plans along those lines.
“Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president, and she is pleased with what will be in the [State of the Union address] and in the budget [next month] on clean energy,” one White House aide told POLITICO. “The president’s commitment to these issues will of course continue but any transition of the office will be announced soon.”
Browner will “stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition,” the aide said, and thinks the administration is in a good place to defend Obama’s green priorities, beginning with Tuesday night’s State of the Union address and the upcoming budget request.
Even so, some of Obama’s allies on and off Capitol Hill who two years ago considered Browner the leader of a dream team on their issues said they were concerned about the latest shakeup on the eve of a State of the Union where the president is expected to move to the center.
“This does strike me as a quiet kill, so to speak,” said a House Democratic aide who works on energy and environmental issues, including the 2009 cap-and-trade bill. “If there were a sacrificial lamb, it could have been on health care, financial issues, on a whole number of other things. But it’s the climate czar that’s going down.
“I don’t know the exact circumstances of it, but the circumstantial evidence, I think the timing is frankly fairly frightening,” the staffer added.
Browner’s husband, disgraced former New York Congressman Thomas Downey, is an “energy” lobbyist whose clients include an outfit called Standard Renewable Energy Group – a venture capital firm investing in “green technology” companies like the ones which have been major beneficiaries of federal swag as part of the administration’s “green jobs” initiatives. Michelle Malkin has a more detailed lowdown on Downey’s background…
His clients have included foreign governments, drug and insurance companies, and major energy companies including Chevron and the Standard Renewable Energy Group, which will no doubt come under the regulatory purview of his broadly-empowered “energy czar” wife. Obama’s stringent lobbying rules do not apply to spouses. The White House blithely claims that “administration officials will recuse themselves from any issue involving a spouse,” but how exactly can Browner recuse herself from the very core duties of her job, which include targeting carbon emissions, enacting onerous global warming reduction policies, and regulating the very industry her husband represented for years?
This is particularly troubling given Browner’s husband’s past. Conflict of interest and abuse of power seem to be Downey’s specialty. He was a Democrat congressman in New York for nearly two decades before losing his seat during the House banking scandal. Downey racked up overdrafts on 151 checks worth $83,000 at the House bank while his wife held a patronage job as an auditor in the House office that ran the House bank. An undercover ABC News investigation in 1990 showed him lolling on a beach during a congressional junket to Barbados. Reflecting on Downey’s defeat in 1992 and the loss of his long-ago image as an upstart reformer, one of Downey’s congressional colleagues told the New York Times: “You live in Washington, you just get sucked into Washington.””