Imagine that you’re the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar, publicly owned company and that you’ve been invited to testify before Congress along with several other of your fellow CEOs. Further imagine that, while you’re delivering your testimony, protesters are allowed to physically approach, disrupt and humiliate you—and no security personnel are there to intervene. And then they get away scot-free.
That’s what happened last week to coal industry CEOs when they testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
As Peabody Energy CEO Greg Boyce was reading his statement to the Committee, several protesters were able to walk up to the witness table and place chunks of coal before the CEOs. They then stood in the space between the CEOs and Chairman Markey with blackened palms held high chanting ”Coal is dirty.” The most Chairman Markey managed to do in this surreal scene was to ask feebly for security in a quiet monotone voice. Moments later, the protesters left on their own volition. They were not pursued.
It is outrageous that Rep. Markey invited the CEOs to testify and then, either negligently or not, allowed them to be exposed them to the physical humiliation and intimidation of protesters. Certainly, if Secretary of Energy Steven Chu or former Vice President Al Gore had been at the witness table, Chairman Markey would have had ample security around to protect them. Given Chairman Markey’s reaction to the scene, one may reasonably wonder whether he was in on the attempted humiliation.
You might think that these brazen protesters were from a radical group like Earth First. But you’d be wrong. The protesters were part of a group called Campus Progress, a subsidiary of the Center for American Progress (CAP)—essentially the Obama administration’s think tank. CAP is led by John Podesta who chaired President Obama’s White House transition team.
Had the protesters been with a group like Earth First, Markey’s complicity in the event would be less open to question. But Markey undoubtedly has close ties with CAP as it is the leading Democratic policy group in Washington, DC. At the very least, he spoke at a CAP event in 2008. Moreover, CAP strongly supported the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. Would CAP-affiliated protesters risk Chairman Markey’s wrath by disrupting his hearing?
As congressional invitees, the CEOs should have been afforded every courtesy by Chairman Markey. But they weren’t even given the most basic courtesy—personal security. The outstanding question is what did Chairman Markey know and when did he know it?
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them (Regnery 2009).