Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings has rejected complaints by Democrats that his committee's disclosure rules for witnesses representing nonprofit organizations are too onerous.
When Republicans took control of the Natural Resources Committee at the beginning of the year, they established an unusual policy: All witnesses are not created equal.
House rules require witnesses who testify before committees to first submit their credentials, generally a résumé and a list of government grants and contracts they hold.
But the GOP leaders of the Natural Resources Committee created a series of additional requirements for witnesses that represent nonprofit organizations. In addition to the basic background documents, nonprofit groups are required to disclose all lawsuits they have filed against the federal government for the past four years, any foreign donations the group has received over the same period, and three years of the group’s tax returns.
The rules create an odd imbalance in the disclosure packets of various witnesses.
On Sept. 21, the full committee held a hearing on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, inviting truck driver Carey Hall, star of the History Channel adventure show “Ice Road Truckers,” to testify. Hall submitted a four-page “Truth in Testimony” disclosure form, indicating that he was appearing as a representative of Carlile Transportation Systems, the Alaska-based trucking company he works for.
Hall did not have to provide any information about federal grants or contracts the company may have won, and he was not asked to provide any information about the company’s finances.
During his testimony, he volunteered that Carlile has “more than 600 employees” moving freight “all over the United States” and specializing in “movement of goods and equipment specifically for the oil and gas industry.” A 2010 report in the industry publication Treasury & Risk referred to Carlile as “a $135 million trucking and logistics company with 650 employees. It has offices in five states and Canada, and its revenue has doubled in the past seven years.” But those details were not disclosed at the hearing, where Hall emphasized the importance of opening ANWR to oil development to increase domestic oil supply and to boost “freight loads” for truckers in Alaska.
Sitting at the table with Hall was Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, who was required to submit more than 100 pages of tax records and other materials.
The requirements for expanded disclosure by nonprofits are not spelled out in the committee’s rules, which were approved on a bipartisan basis at the beginning of the 112th Congress. Those rules say only that “all witnesses shall be required to submit with their testimony a resume or other statement describing their education, employment, professional affiliations and other background information pertinent to their testimony.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.