Ex-Perry adviser lobbies for energy firm bailout
WASHINGTON (AP) — At a West Virginia rally on tax cuts, President Donald Trump veered off on a subject that likely puzzled most of his audience.
“Nine of your people just came up to me outside. ‘Could you talk about 202?'” he said. “We’ll be looking at that 202. You know what a 202 is? We’re trying.”
One person who undoubtedly knew what Trump was talking about last month was Jeff Miller, an energy lobbyist with whom the president had dined the night before. Miller had been hired by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt power company that relies on coal and nuclear energy to produce electricity. His assignment: push the Trump administration to use a so-called 202 order — named for a provision of the Federal Power Act — to secure a bailout worth billions of dollars.
Although Trump didn’t agree to the plan — he still hasn’t — for Miller, a president’s public declaration of interest amounted to a job well done.
How a single lobbyist helped carry a long-shot idea from obscurity to the presidential stage is a twisty journey through the new swamp of Trump’s Washington. Rather than clearing out the lobbyists and campaign donors that spend big money to sway politicians, Trump and his advisers paved the way for a new cast of powerbrokers who have quickly embraced familiar ways to wield influence.
Miller is among them. A well-connected GOP fundraiser, he has served as an adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a close friend. He ran Perry’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016. And when Trump tapped Perry to lead the Energy Department, Miller shepherded his friend through confirmation, sitting behind him, next to the nominee’s wife, at the Senate hearing.
When Perry came to Washington, Miller did, too. He launched his firm, Miller Strategies, early last year and began lobbying his friend and other Washington officials.
Besides Perry, Miller is close to other Trump-era power players. He is among House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s best friends, their relationship dating back decades to Miller’s days in California. In more recent years, Miller developed a friendship with Vice President Mike Pence adviser Marty Obst.
“He’s very influential in Washington, a leading fundraiser,” Obst said of Miller.
Now, after 14 months in business, the 43-year-old Miller has collected more than $3.2 million from a roster of clients that includes several of the nation’s largest energy companies, among them Southern Co., a nuclear power plant operator headquartered in Atlanta, and Texas-based Valero Energy, according to federal filings.
Miller also has continued to raise money for GOP politicians. He contributed nearly $37,000 of his own over the past year to Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Greg Pence of Indiana, who’s seeking the congressional seat once held by his younger brother, the vice president, according to federal campaign records.
He is an active supporter of America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC that raised $4.7 million in the first three months of 2018. That work earned him a spot at dinner with Trump, McCarthy and other GOP donors in the upscale City Center complex blocks from the White House.