Johnson drew a connection between political contributions from Koch Industries — the second largest privately traded company in the U.S. — and its nonprofit arm to ALEC and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the latter of which helped research a recent Chamber of Commerce study on sue and settle practices.
“Passage of this bill would have a dramatic, dastardly impact on air and water quality,” he continued.
William Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs, clashed with Johnson after the lawmaker questioned the Chamber’s research on sue and settle.
“Assuming that the Koch brothers have contributed more than $700,000 [to the Competitive Enterprise Institute], is it logical to think they would have some influence on the results the research that that entity produced?” Johnson asked Kovacs.
Kovacs said the Chamber hired one person to confirm the legal database searches that the Chamber and the Competitive Enterprise Institute did by going through the Federal Register.
The clash came as lawmakers debated the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, which was introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) in April and has 27 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republican.
On several occasions, Collins attempted to interject into the discussion, which Johnson rebuffed. When the two tangled briefly in an exchange about lawmakers being members of an advocacy organization in general, Collins suggested that some could be a part of union-affiliated organizations and offered up the NAACP.
“That’s not ALEC,” Johnson shot back.
Collins then turned to the guest panel and asked Thomas Easterly, the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, if a speech he gave on over-regulation at an ALEC conference last year biased his view of the legislation.
Easterly said he talks to a wide variety of groups, including environmental groups.
Following the exchanges, the hearing room became silent until the subcommittee’s chairman cleared the air.
“Wow,” Rep. Spencer Bauchus (R-Ala.) said, before continuing on with the hearing, briefly reminding members of the importance of “not to impugn the honesty, the character of other members or the witnesses.”