By BRAD HAYNES and T.W. FARNAM
The husband of Carol Browner, President-elect Barack Obama's presumed pick for a new White House energy adviser post, has lobbied on energy and environmental issues, with clients including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Keyspan Energy.
Ms. Browner is married to former New York Rep. Tom Downey, who founded the Downey McGrath Group Inc. in 1993. The two wed in June 2007.
Ms. Browner, a principal at The Albright Group LLC, a consulting firm headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton. In the Obama White House, she is expected to be "energy czar," a new post that will coordinate the many federal agencies that have a hand in energy policy, according to Democratic officials.
In his campaign and transition efforts, Mr. Obama has emphasized new ethics rules banning lobbyists from making contributions, participating in transition activities or working in his administration on issues that they have handled as lobbyists in the past 12 months. The rules don't apply to lobbying work by spouses.
"If Carol Browner joins the administration to work on energy issues, she will be recused from working on any matters involving her husband's clients," said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "And neither he nor his firm will have any energy clients or contact with the energy or environment agencies or departments."
A spokeswoman at the Downey McGrath Group said the firm wouldn't comment on its work or clients.
In addition to lobbying for major energy companies around the beginning of the decade, Mr. Downey has worked this year for InternationalExchange, which runs energy commodity markets, and a nonprofit called Securing America's Future Energy, which addresses the national security impact of American energy policy.
In 2006, Ms. Browner and Mr. Downey collaborated on behalf of Dubai Ports World, which had arranged to buy a company that operated six major U.S. ports, including ports in New York and New Jersey. The company, owned by the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, drew congressional furor. In February of that year, the two paid a visit to New York Sen. Charles Schumer to discuss the issue; Mr. Schumer played a central role in killing the ports deal.
"After that meeting, which was for informational purposes only, neither Browner nor The Albright Group had any ongoing involvement in congressional issues concerning Dubai Ports because The Albright Group does not lobby," said Albright Group spokeswoman Jen Friedman.
Mr. Downey, whose firm lobbied for the Dubai company until the end of 2007, went on to write an editorial with former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole excoriating Congress for its role in blocking the ports deal, claiming its interference had made American ports less safe. "You've gotten your "pound of flesh,'" read the editorial, addressed to their former congressional colleagues. "Let's not rub their nose in it."
The Downey McGrath Group has also lobbied on behalf of foreign governments including Haiti, Estonia and Bulgaria.