Like many environmental groups, API uses social media to build a network of supporters. It’s a tool Gerard says he learned about from people who worked for Obama’s 2008 campaign. Gerard says API’s role is transparent, but the Facebook sites of Energy Citizens (28,278 “like” this) and EnergyTomorrow (32,877 “like” that) identify themselves simply as nonprofit organizations. Only if readers click on the “about” section do they see “the organization is supported by API.”
This is how it aims to build its forces: API wants like-minded people to engage in Twitter feeds, join chat rooms or blog, so that they might move “offline” to meetings lawmakers hold in their districts.
In another time, Gerard relied on Big Oil employees to do that sort of thing. In 2009, Gerard urged oil giants to send their employees to “Energy Citizen” rallies aimed at influencing U.S. senators in 21 states. According to a Gerard e-mail that Greenpeace obtained, Gerard offered API’s help with logistics — including the hiring of “a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups.”
Romney’s ‘helpful’ background
Raised in Mud Lake, Idaho, outside the 140-year-old Mormon stronghold of Idaho Falls, Gerard was the son of a John Deere salesman and a teacher. He graduated from George Washington University after finishing his mission work in Sydney. He worked for Idaho Republicans Rep. George Hansen and Sen. James A. McClure, the former chief of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who pushed to privatize federal lands, promoted the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and was one of 11 senators to vote against the Clean Air Act of 1990.
After McClure retired, he and Gerard formed a lobbying firm. Gerard left that to run the National Mining Association and later the American Chemistry Council.
At API, Gerard immediately shook things up and cut the payroll. He fired tax analysts, an economist, a congressional relations specialist and roughly 40 others, many of them just before Christmas. Gerard — who took home a $6.4 million pay package in 2010 that made him one of the city’s best-paid trade group leaders — says he wanted it to be more like a small business, though with 176 people in its D.C. headquarters and 45 others in state offices, it is a sizable trade group.
Gerard did some hiring, too. Communications aide Eric Wohlschlegel jumped from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Marty Durbin followed Gerard from the American Chemistry Council. Durbin, API’s government affairs chief, is a nephew of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). (Gerard also hired a driver-bodyguard away from the Chamber president.)
API, which still sets global technical standards, receives $29 million from certification fees. But the organization is primarily built on about $133 million in annual dues from members, from Milwaukee Valve Co. to Exxon Mobil, with the largest paying more than $20 million a year by some estimates. Even with the sliding scale, some small firms chafe at the dues; one unhappy executive said, “Maybe that’s latte money for Exxon Mobil, but a couple of million is important to us.”
Outside the API, Gerard is a leading figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a former bishop and a current member of what the church calls its “area 70s,” which puts him on a high rung of the organization. He has eight children, including a kindergarten-age pair adopted from Guatemala and others ranging in age from 14 to 26. He is a past chairman of the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
On Super Tuesday, Ann Romney publicly thanked him for helping her husband in his bid for the presidency. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets Web site, Gerard has given $2,470 to Romney and his family members have given $4,970 for the 2012 campaign. He has raised much more by hosting fundraisers, including one at the District Chop House in 2010. He was a supporter of Romney in 2008, too, and some former API employees think he hopes to land a job in a Romney administration.
“Romney has a business background that would be helpful to get us back on track,” Gerard says. “They’ve asked us to support them, and we have. They’re good people.” He and his wife “believe the president’s approach to date is not consistent with what the people need or the country needs for sound energy policy.”
‘Far too aggressive’
Gerard has made that loud and clear.
On Jan. 6, 2010, he spoke of “what has become increasingly familiar double talk from this administration.” After Obama’s State of the Union address this year, Gerard issued his own response, saying it was “not a sound energy policy.” He said, “The president’s tax plan sounds like something Jimmy Carter would have supported back in the ’70s.”