Vitter: Still No Transparency at Treasury with Carbon Tax E-Mails
Follow up to Treasury’s lack of response on involvement in crafting a carbon tax
January 14, 2013
U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) is again urging Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for answers to his department's involvement in developing a carbon tax. Treasury avoided a Freedom of Information Act request for the emails, as well as Vitter's initial inquiry from nearly two months ago.
"It's extremely troubling that Treasury is still hiding its involvement in crafting a carbon tax, but the lack of transparency is telling," Vitter said. "It's quite the coincidence that while Treasury is withholding information, the President's special envoy is struggling to come up with the majority of taxpayer money for a $100 billion fund they promised in 2009. The Administration must know that U.S. taxpayers will not willingly agree to give tens-of-billions of dollars to an international agency without a fight."
In August 2012, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a government watchdog organization, requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a release of Treasury's emails.
The text of Vitter's letter is below. Click here to read his first letter from November 20, 2012.
January 14, 2013
The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20220
Dear Secretary Geithner:
On November 20, 2012 I sent you a letter requesting responsive documents and Treasury Department analysis of a carbon tax. (Attachment A). Now, half way through January 2013, Treasury continues to withhold documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to the Department's Office of Environment and Energy, and, I have yet to receive any responsive documents pursuant to my outstanding request. This inaction continues the troubling trend of transparency avoidance demonstrated throughout the current Administration.
I am particularly troubled after reading that State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, made statements in a recent speech that there will be "enormous pressure" on donor countries to show they are making progress on a vow to generate $100 billion annually by 2020 for clean energy.
This $100 billion dollar fund, for which we can expect the United States to contribute the lion's share, was of specific note in my previous letter requesting economic analysis from Treasury. It is reported that during this same speech Mr. Stern warned, "...Given the slow pace and fraught nature of the U.N. negotiations, it is important to drive real action among willing partners that doesn't depend on treaties, negotiations, et cetera,..." Stern added, "This makes sense substantively and can also send a positive signal that concrete international action in the immediate term is possible and can deliver results."
I agree with Mr. Stern that there is a "slow pace and fraught nature of U.N negotiations" and finding creative ways to take tens-of-billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to provide to an international agency is a more difficult task if discussed openly. However, committing tens-of-billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in private discussions does not necessarily make the U.S. taxpayer a "willing partner." In furtherance of President Obama's 2009 pledge to make his administration the most open and transparent in history, whatever analysis for contributing to a $100 billion international climate fund, as well as the revenue sources Treasury analyzed, including a carbon tax, should be made publicly available so American taxpayers may better understand the commitments Mr. Stern crafts behind closed doors.
Accordingly, I look forward to responsive documents to not only the specific FOIA request noted in my November 20, 2012 letter, but also the additional analysis requested relating to a carbon tax. I remain curious to know what new taxes and spending programs Treasury has aided in developing while Mr. Stern works to "politically bind" the United States to long-term financial commitments the U.S. Government can ill afford.