ADVOCACY:

Gas alliance gives to business-oriented conservative group

When a Texas group wanted to add a little business pragmatism to the conservative mantel, the natural gas industry provided seed money.

America's Natural Gas Alliance donated $250,000 to the Texas Conservative Roundtable in 2011, according to ANGA's 2011 tax return, recently made public on GuideStar.org.

The roundtable developed ratings for Texas lawmakers who'd received failing or mediocre grades from another conservative group, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Selected ANGA contributions in 2011
American Association of Blacks in Energy $5,000
Bipartisan Policy Center $250,000
Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation $20,900
Consumer Energy Alliance $158,000
Democratic Attorneys General Association $25,000
Democratic Governors Association $50,000
Environmental Council of the States $5,000
Mexican American Legislative Policy Council $10,000
Mid-America Regulatory Conference $10,000
NALEO Educational Fund $25,000
National Association of Counties $52,000
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners $10,000
National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators $25,000
NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures $22,500
NCSL Texas Host State Committee $100,000
Republican Governors Association $101,850
Republican Leadership Conference $24,569
Republican State Leadership Committee $107,500
Southern Governors' Association $20,000
Texas Black Expo $15,000
Texas Conservative Roundtable $250,000
Texas League of Conservation Voters $30,000
Texas Tribune $132,500
U.S. Conference of Mayors $127,500
Source: GuideStar.org

The roundtable group joined the Bipartisan Policy Center and the U.S. Conference of Mayors as among the top recipients of ANGA's largesse.

ANGA, which advocates for the use of natural gas rather than coal, also contributed thousands to several associations of state regulators.

"The expenditure for the Texas Conservative Council was a decision by ANGA's Texas state team," said ANGA spokesman Dan Whitten. "In general, ANGA is dedicated to raising awareness of the many environmental, economic and national security benefits of natural gas. Our support for a wide range of organizations reflects the broad appeal of this clean and abundant American energy resource."

The dues-based business league reported revenue of $90 million, according to the 2011 tax forms at GuideStar.org, which publishes the Internal Revenue Service-mandated Form 990 filed by nonprofit organizations. ANGA paid the Glover Park Group $2.6 million for research and advertising, $1.5 million to Dewey Square for "grassroots communications" and $780,000 to WilmerHale for "advocacy."

Many of the groups received money from ANGA in the past (Greenwire, Feb. 24, 2012). But missing from the list in 2011 was Americans for Tax Reform, run by Grover Norquist, which became a lightning rod during the recent "fiscal cliff" negotiations.

The Texas Conservative Roundtable issued its first "legislative scorecard" in the spring of 2012. On its website, the group says it is seeking "thoughtful conservative solutions." It describes itself as "a coalition of businesses and citizens who want to ensure that Texas remains a national and world leader for job creation, economic growth, and quality of life."

Rather than calling for "smaller government," as many conservative groups do, it says it wants elected officials to support "a predictable regulatory environment" and "efficient government."

"We're trying to add a business-minded set of solutions to the problems," Julie Parsley, the president of the organization, told the Associated Press in 2012. "Hopefully, it's a way to broker some fiscally responsible, conservative solutions to what are going to be tough issues facing Texas."

But conservative groups in Texas have criticized the roundtable's voter guide as an effort to give centrist Republicans political cover.

"You can call a tulip a rose all you want, but that doesn't make it one," said Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. His group has supported primary challenges against Republicans from the right.

The roundtable's executive director, Bryan Hebert, left in 2012 to become general counsel to Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R).

The Bipartisan Policy Center suspended much of its work on carbon policy after efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill in Congress failed. BPC's Strategic Energy Policy Initiative, which features former Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) as board members, is expected to release a new set of policy recommendations early this year.