Could Coal Lobby Chief Be Probed For Perjury?

Could apparently false statements made by the head of a coal-industry lobby group before Congress this morning end up being referred to the Justice Department for a criminal perjury probe? Congressional investigators aren’t ruling it out.

As we reported, Steve Miller, the director of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), appears to have twice misled Congress while under oath during his testimony this morning over those forged letters sent on the coal lobby’s behalf by Bonner and Associates.It’s a crime to lie to Congress. Asked by TPMmuckraker whether Miller’s statements might be referred to the Justice Department for a possible perjury investigation, a spokesman for the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming responded, via email:

We are currently reviewing the testimony and will determine our course of action soon.

In this morning’s hearing, Miller first said that his group had never opposed the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation that passed the House in June. But last month, Greenwire reported, in a clarification to a story:

This story was changed to state that ACCCE opposed Waxman-Markey. An ACCCE spokeswoman in an interview Wednesday said that ACCCE was not opposed to Waxman-Markey but later in the day said that was an error and ACCCE at the time of the vote opposed the bill.

Later in the hearing, Miller said that his group had only lobbied since April 2008. But there are extensive records of the group’s lobbying for many years before that.

Miller appears to have been trying to get cute here. It was in April 2008 that ACCCE was formed out of a merger of two other industry front groups Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, and the Center for Energy and Economic Development. So Miller appears to have was referring only to the period after the name change. But given that just moments after Miller went straight on to talk the 16-year long history of his organization, it’s clear that he was trying to have it both ways, and being extremely misleading.

Other false statements by congressional witnesses have been referred to the Justice Department in recent years. Last year, Bradley Schlozman, a former DOJ official, was found by an internal department probe to have lied to Congress in 2007 about his role in politicized hiring at the department. And there is evidence that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress about his role in the US attorney firings. Neither Schlozman nor Gonzales was ultimately prosecuted.

We’ll keep you posted on the committee’s actions in regard to Miller.

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