Executives seeking Pebble Mine detail their sway over politicians from Alaska to White House

A direct line to the White House, but routed through a third party to hide it from public view. Easy access to Alaska’s governor, as well as the state’s two U.S. senators. A successful push to unseat nine Republican state lawmakers who opposed their plan to build a massive gold and copper mine — the biggest in North America — near Bristol Bay in Alaska.

Those were some of the boasts, made by two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine, in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group and made public this week. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s heated campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and devastate its world-famous sockeye salmon fishery.

The conversations were secretly recorded over the past month and a half by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Posing as potential investors in the mine, EIA investigators conducted video calls in which the mine’s sponsors detailed how they sought to curry favor with elected politicians from Juneau to Washington, D.C.

The tapes feature separate conversations with two key men behind the project: Roland Thiessen, chief executive of the Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, and Tom Collier, chief executive of its U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership.

Within a matter of weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could grant a permit for the mine. While the agency found in late July that the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, last month it informed Pebble Limited Partnership that it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation.

But even as the executives jump through regulatory hoops, they are focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

Thiessen described both of the state’s Republican U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as politicians who might make noises about the project to appear sensitive to environmental concerns but ultimately will not stand in their way. “It’s an age-old practice where when you have constituents, you have important people who support you on two sides of an issue, all right, you try to find a way to satisfy them both,” he said in the recording.

He noted that Murkowski declined to move a bill that would have barred the federal government from permitting the mine. Instead, she included language in a spending bill that raised some questions about Pebble Mine but did not hinder it. “She says things that don’t sound supportive of Pebble, but when it comes time to vote, when it comes time to do something, she never does anything to hurt Pebble, OK?” Thiessen said.

She says things that don’t sound supportive of Pebble, but when it comes time to vote, when it comes time to do something, she never does anything to hurt Pebble, OK?”
— Roland Thiessen, CEO of Northern Dynasty

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Sway House Members Allegedly Party Again After Pledging To Stop Lockdown Bash, Fans React

KEY POINTS

  • In the video, the influencers can be seen standing on table amid cheers from the crowd
  • After the video went viral, many people took to social media to criticize the boys
  • Sway House member Bryce Hall  is already facing criminal charges for  throwing massive parties during the ongoing coronavirus  pandemic

Members of the Sway House are facing backlash once again for allegedly attending another party amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video circulating on the internet, the Sway House members can be seen having fun at a party while being surrounded by a large group of people who do not appear to be wearing masks. The influencers can be seen standing on a table amid cheers from the crowd. It is not clear when the video was taken. 

After the video went viral, many people took to social media to criticize the boys. Some also said they weren’t surprised by their act.

“Never wish for an influencer to get COVID-19 because knowing them they’ll spread it to innocent people by constantly going outside and not staying home,” one person wrote in Instagram comments.

“Seriously? Do they really have to like come on – learn from your mistakes,” another person wrote.

“They got their electricity taken away and they are partying again,” another person commented.

Among the members seen enjoying the party was TikToker Bryce Hall who is already facing charges for throwing massive parties during the ongoing coronavirus  pandemic.

While announcing criminal charges against Hall and another TikToker, Blake Gray, last month, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer had said, “We allege these hosts have been incredibly irresponsible, with a highly infectious disease spreading and parties banned because of it, and we allege they violated the law.”

“If you have a combined 19 million followers on TikTok in the middle of a public health crisis, you should be modeling great behavior, best practices, for all of us, rather than brazenly violating the law and posting videos about it,” he added.

In a YouTube video uploaded earlier this month, Hall revealed he had quit partying.

“We are quitting partying for a little bit. We actually are quitting partying,” he said in the video. 

“I think people are gonna think we’re sarcastic — this is fully serious. We are quitting partying for a little bit, which means our content’s not gonna consist of a lot of party montages,” he added.

The Sway House members are yet to comment on the video.

bryce hall TikTok star Bryce Hall Photo: Instagram/Bryce Hall

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Former ComEd VP charged with bribery conspiracy in scheme to sway House Speaker Michael Madigan

A former vice president for ComEd was charged Friday with bribery conspiracy alleging he helped orchestrate a scheme to pay political allies of powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to influence legislation in Springfield that would benefit the utility.

Fidel Marquez, a longtime lobbyist and former senior vice president of governmental affairs at ComEd, was charged in a one-count criminal information made public late Friday.

Marquez was the first person to be charged in the ongoing investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at influencing legislation in Springfield by making payments to Madigan associates and approved lobbyists, some of whom did little or no actual work for the company.

ComEd was charged with bribery in July and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, agreeing to pay a record $200 million fine and cooperate with investigators in exchange for the charges being dropped in three years.

Defendants who are charged via criminal information — as opposed to grand jury indictment — likely intend to plead guilty. Neither Marquez nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chairman, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

The four-page information against Marquez alleged that from 2011 to 2019, he conspired with others to corruptly solicit jobs, contracts and monetary payments for the benefit of Madigan — identified as Public Official A — and his associates with the intent of influencing legislation beneficial to ComEd.

Specifically, on July 30, 2018, Marquez directed a $37,500 payment to Company 1, “a substantial portion of which was intended for associates of (Madigan),” the information stated.

The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Marquez was a focus of the federal investigation, as is former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, who abruptly retired last year. Pramaggiore has not been charged. A Pramaggiore spokesman has said that she “has done nothing wrong and any inference to the contrary is misguided and false.”

Prosecutors have said ComEd’s scheme began around 2011 — when key regulatory matters were before the Illinois House that Madigan controls — and continued through last year.

Many of the illegal payments allegedly were arranged by downstate lobbyist Michael McClain, a key confidant and adviser at the center of the probe, according to court records. McClain also has not been charged.

One example cited in ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement involved a man identified as “Consultant 1,” who allegedly was speaking to a ComEd executive identified by the Tribune as Marquez. The consultant said he believed McClain had spoken to Madigan about the payments, saying the money was “to keep (Public Official A) happy (and) I think it’s worth it, because you’d hear otherwise,” prosecutors alleged.

Records show ComEd tried to clean up its lobbying operation in the midst of the investigation last year. One of those departing was Marquez. ComEd officially announced it on Sept. 23, saying only that Marquez was “retiring after 39 years of service.”

Marquez, who has homes in Chicago

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