Pro-Ethanol Group Strategery: Tap Former GOP Congressman as Political Tide Turns

Last Updated Nov 2, 2010 4:07 PM EDT

Growth Energy, the pro-ethanol trade group that has spent nearly $1.2 million lobbying Capitol Hill this year, has tapped former GOP congressman Jim Nussle as president and chief operating officer, a newly created position at the organization. Clearly, Growth Energy sees where the political tide is flowing. And it's not towards the Democrats.

Among ethanol's most pressing congressional issues is the 45-cent-per-gallon blender's tax credit or VEETC; and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol (plus, an additional 2.5% tariff on the value of the imported ethanol) Both the tariff and tax credit are set to expire at the end of the year.

The Nussle appointment is thinly veiled strategery at its very best -- or worst depending on how you feel about this sort of thing. Nussle GOP credits include eight terms in Congress, White House budget director under former President George W. Bush and 2006 Republican candidate for governor. Growth Energy hopes to capitalize on Nussle's GOP street cred at a time when Republicans are expected to make gains on Election Day.

UPDATE: The folks over at Growth Energy wanted to clarify that while Nussle's GOP resume could be helpful it wasn't the reason behind his appointment. Spokeswoman Stephanie Dreyer told me that the trade group, which has grown since its founding two years ago, needed an everyday manager with expertise and familiarity with the issue and Nussle was that man. She emphasized his role will be day-to-day managerial, and not lobbying. However, she added that could change in the future, if necessary.

Here's a puzzler though. Nussle, who already is a member of its board, will be responsible for Growth Energy's day-to-day operations, including revenue growth, budget, expenses, communications and other non-lobbying associated activity. Which is sort of weird because Growth Energy paid Nussle's consultant company The Nussle Group $6,000 in 2009 and $20,000 as of July this year to lobby for the trade group, according to Senate Office of Public Records compiled by the Center of Responsive Politics. I guess Growth Energy is more interested in his budget prowess than his lobbying skills. Or maybe not. In a release announcing the appointment, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis seemed most interested in his Capitol Hill experience.

Jim's experience on Capitol Hill and his ability to manage large teams will be huge assets to Growth Energy. As a former Iowa Congressman he also possesses the knowledge of ethanol and agriculture that will allow him to hit the ground running and be a powerful advocate for America's ethanol supporters.
Of course, Election Day may also produce a few headaches for Growth Energy if any Tea Partiers, who generally oppose subsidies and such, join the ranks.

Photo from Flickr user haydnseek, CC 2.0
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