Tribune columnist is a paid lobbyist

September 29, 2015
Tom Fulks

Tom Fulks

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

A regularly-featured columnist for San Luis Obispo County’s daily newspaper, who is a vocal critic of a controversial rail spur project proposed by Phillips 66, is a paid lobbyist for at least two entities poised to benefit financially if the project is eventually denied. Tom Fulks’ Sunday column appears in The Tribune twice monthly.

In his Sept. 27 commentary “Local officials should have the courage to comment on Phillips 66 rail project,” Fulks takes a stand against a Phillips 66 oil-by-rail proposal, then rails against public officials who have chosen to refrain from a decision until environmental reports on the project are finished and presented to the public.

The Tribune column also cites what Fulks calls “spectacular” mishaps of oil trains on the East Coast, and he opines, “You’d think those catastrophes would spur timid local officials into asking serious questions about the pending oil-train project.”

“Fulks is an unpaid freelancer for The Tribune,” said Tribune Executive Editor Sandra Duerr. “Under the terms of his contract, he is required to disclose conflicts of interest. I suggest that you contact Fulks directly.”

Fulks did not respond to phone calls and emails from CalCoastNews and Duerr has not said if Fulks disclosed his apparent conflict of interest before submitting his column.

The former New Times columnist promotes Neste Corp., an oil refining and marketing company located in Espoo, Finland, which has become involved in the domestic biofuel business, according to multiple public documents. Neste touts itself as “the world’s leading supplier of renewable diesel” with “a production focus on premium-quality, lower-emission traffic fuels.”

Sandra Duerr

Sandra Duerr

Fulks also is the West Coast representative of the Diesel Technology Forum, based in Washington, D.C., which describes itself as being “engaged in events throughout the year, ranging from technology displays to speaking engagements to Congressional briefings,” according to public documents.

Both are clients of MightyComm, of which Fulks is president. Both clients are heavily involved in research, development, and promotion of renewable diesel fuel. Both Neste and the Diesel Technology Forum stand to gain financially from the denial of the proposed Phillips 66 project.

These so-called “advanced biofuels” — produced from raw materials generally considered waste — are in line to become the next power source for heavy transport and machinery currently utilizing fossil fuel-produced diesel.

Phillips 66 presently refines heavy crude oil at its Bay Area facility, after obtaining semi-refined fossil fuel products from the Nipomo Mesa facility via a 200-mile-long pipeline. The company is seeking permits from the county to build a 1.3 mile rail spur so that crude oil currently delivered by pipeline could be transported to the Nipomo Mesa facility by rail.

John Peschong is the other half of The Tribune’s political pundit duo. Peschong, a Republican, is a paid political consultant who said he does not work as a lobbyist. Fulks is a Democrat.

In its January introduction to the pair, The Tribune described Peschong as a public relations professional, and Fulks as a policy advocate “who considers political consulting a ‘side hobby.’”

While political consultants, advocates, and lobbyists are all paid to promote candidates and issues, there are major differences between them. Political consultants and advocates offer advice on a subjects, while lobbyists offer advice and then actively seek to influence policy and government decisions.

Paid advocates who spend at least one-third of their work time in contact with public officials trying to affect policy are required to register as lobbyists with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Fulks is not registered as a lobbyist in California, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s website.

On his website, Fulks asserts his goal “is to educate California media, policy makers, opinion leaders, environmental groups and others about the rapid progress of advanced automotive and alternative fuels technology, and where this technology fits into the complex matrix of emissions, climate change, goods movement, land use and energy policy.”

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who is likely to have a vote on the proposed spur in the future, pays Fulks for his political consulting advice.  Gibson has referred to Fulks as “my evil genius in the back room.”

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pasoparent5

The S S Tribune has been a sinking ship for a long time.

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy…when are you gonna jump off that doomed enterprise?


Francesca Bolognini

Well, I totally get that the major media in this county and pretty much the whole country is now bought and paid for in one way or another, and that is , I guess, the point of this story on a local level. Nobody is more disturbed about this than I am. You need look no further than the fact that the papers and the television and most of the radio are members of the Economic Vitality Corporation, which also includes the Gas Co. and Big Oil and PG&E, etc.. Big money, dirty fuel entities.


However, looking at a bigger picture here, I am noticing that the subtext, whether intentional or not, is telling a story about the now available renewable bio-fuels that we could be using, as opposed to the intensly environmentally damaging fuels we seem stuck with today. If you want to talk lobbyists, there is an industry that pretty much OWNS the government and it is doing us and the planet no good. while enriching themselves obscenely and buying up patents to prevent us from ever leaving their clutches. I learned this from the inside, long, long go.


So, how about a story about the advantages / disadvantages (if there are any) of biofuels, to help us decide whether we want trains (that really do sometimes explode) loaded with antiquated, high polluting and volitile substances when we could have a genuinely clean, possibly locally manufactured / possibly cheaper (especially factoring in the health and environmental factors) alternative ? I would really love to read that story.


JordanJ

The rest of the story is that multiple Democrats tired of the Adam Hill’s bullying were trying to get Pismo Beach Councilman Eric Howell to run against Adam Hill. In his latest column, Fulks was able to both trash the rail spur and Eric Howell.


Tom Fulks called Eric Howell a coward who does not care about the health and welfare of the people. This may come back to bite the bullies because Eric Howell is a well liked and respected Democrat.


Fulks is paid to trash his client’s opponents as he seeks governmental decisions to favor anyone who puts a dime in his pocket. Though he does not claim to be paid by Adam Hill, he has been seen regularly drinking at a SLO bar with Adam Hill and PG&E public relations flak Tom Jones discussing how to ruin Adam Hill’s opponents by trashing reputations.


He works with the likes of Aaron Ochs and Jay Salter, two despicable sexist men who regularly lie and use social media to demean women.


The question is, who will Tom Fulks trash in his next column?


Jim Anderson

Who do you think is responsible for the Tenborg vs CCN lawsuit? Who’s hazardous waste was Tenborg hauling? PG&E’s. Tenborg’s lawyer, James Wagstaffe, is partners with PG&E’s lawyers Adamski and Moroski. Wagstaffe also personally signed legal docs served to CCN for guess who? Aaron Ochs. PG&E’s lawyers Adamski and Moroski are both Team Adam Hill along with PG&E’s Tom Jones. Criminal Conspiracy?


Paso_Guy

The fifth estate is in shambles.


isoslo

There really is no surprise here, but I do appreciate Daniel connecting the dots for us.


OldNed

It takes a pencil with a lot of lead to connect those remotely spaced dots. Come to think of it, these dots seem to be unrelated and not in need of connection.


isoslo

Does myopia run in your family?


OldNed

No and neither does constant conspiracy theorizing.


racket

The real story is in the last paragraph.


Mitch C

The Tribune prints Fauks stuff for free under the guise that he is an unpaid freelancer. He is paid by others to expose the positions he expresses. The Tribune’s allowing Fauks free print space is ethically questionable. I have a car to sell, will the Tribune publish my ad gratis if I hold myself out to be an “unpaid freelancer”?


R.Hodin

They’ll run your ad for free if you have a pulse. No need to be a poseur.


Jorge Estrada

Never fear, Tom Fulks up most of what he touches given time.


Rich in MB

Well well well Mr Fulks and the Tribune are bought and paid Ha ha ha…


Folks you just can’t make this stuff up it is so good and crazy.


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