Lobbying Activity Under Scrutiny in Sec. of State Confirmation Hearing

This week the Senate has been busy with the confirmation hearings for President-Elect Trump’s cabinet nominations. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s confirmation hearing of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson became heated over ExxonMobil’s lobbying activities connected to sanctions on Russia while Mr. Tillerson was the CEO.

Responding to a question from Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Mr. Tillerson denied opposing sanctions on Russia saying, “I have never lobbied against sanctions. …To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions,” reports The Hill. This resulted in Senator Menendez pulling “out printed pages of lobbying disclosure reports filed by Exxon going back to at least 2009, listing legislation that would further impose sanctions on Russia. One form described a lobbying topic as “Russian Aggression Prevention Act, provisions related to energy.” CNN reports that Sen. Menendez continued saying, “I know you weren’t lobbying for the sanctions.” In fact, he said: “Exxon became the in-house lobbyist for Russia against these sanctions.”

Politico Influence reports that “Exxon, for its part, chimed in on Twitter, “Let’s be clear: We engage with lawmakers to discuss sanction impacts, not whether or not sanctions should be imposed.” Let’s be clear: That is akin to saying you’re “educating” instead of “lobbying.” Exxon was raising concerns about how sanctions would impact them, such as inconsistencies between the rules in the United States and in Europe. The staffers on the receiving end understood this to be lobbying against the proposals as written.”

Throughout the hearing Mr. Tillerson’s connection to Russia has been under scrutiny. As CEO of ExxonMobil, Mr. Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on several occasions and was awarded the “Russian Order of Friendship” in 2012, according to Politico.

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