Complaint filed re illegal Keystone XL lobbying by TransCanada's Paul Elliott

Complaint filed re illegal Keystone XL lobbying by TransCanada’s Paul Elliott

For Immediate Release

Contact: Nick Berning, 202-222-0748, [email protected]; Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, [email protected]

Justice Department urged to investigate after emails reveal Canadian oil lobbyist who was former aide of Secretary Clinton lobbied without disclosing status as a foreign agent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The State Department’s review of a proposed tar sands oil pipeline faced a new setback today as an environmental group called on the Justice Department to investigate a top pipeline lobbyist’s illegal failure to register as a foreign agent.

“Paul Elliott, a government relations employee of TransCanada, has acted as agent of a foreign principal and therefore violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We respectfully request that you immediately open an investigation of this matter,” Friends of the Earth attorney Gail Harmon wrote in a letter to Heather Hunt of the FARA Registration Unit of the Department of Justice that was delivered this afternoon. Harmon, of the firm Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, advises nonprofit organizations on legal aspects of their advocacy agendas. 

Last week, the Washington Post first reported on emails between State Department officials and Elliott, who was previously a high-ranking Hillary Clinton campaign aide. The emails, pertaining to the State Department’s ongoing review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, showed the presence of a cozy relationship between Elliott and State Department officials and indicated that the officials had coached TransCanada officials and provided inside information to TransCanada. As InsideClimate News reported yesterday, the emails show State officials privately floated the idea of a two-year delay in the pipeline’s review to a TransCanada lawyer. The emails were obtained via the federal Freedom of Information Act after Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International, all represented by Earthjustice, sued to force their release. 

Crucially, the emails also show that Elliott was lobbying the State Department on behalf of TransCanada for more than a year before he first registered as a lobbyist. The emails further reveal that Elliott lobbied in support of the pipeline with several members of Congress, including Senators Inhofe, Thune, Tester, Nelson and Murkowski and the staff of Representatives Herseth Sandlin and Peter Welsh. The Foreign Agents Registration Act imposes serious penalties on lobbyists for foreign corporations who fail to immediately disclose their lobbying activity.

“The American people need to know when foreign entities are trying to influence the actions of the U.S. government,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica. “Unfortunately, the Canadian oil corporation behind the Keystone XL pipeline was trying to do just that, and its top lobbyist failed to disclose what he was up to. The Justice Department has a responsibility to investigate this serious violation of law.”

“Moreover,” Pica said, “State Department officials must explain why they maintained a cozy relationship with this unregistered foreign agent while he lobbied them illegally. Why did State Department officials provide insider information and coaching to Mr. Elliott and TransCanada? This is more evidence that the State Department has failed to meet its responsibility to conduct a thorough, unbiased review of the proposed pipeline.”

Read the letter from Friends of the Earth’s attorney to the Department of Justice.


Friends of the Earth fights to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. Our campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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