Ex-Lobbyist Confirmed to CFTC

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Meet the newest addition to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. If you’ve been reading Mother Jones recently, then you already know quite a bit about Scott O’Malia. Like the fact that he once worked as a top in-house lobbyist for an energy company, Mirant, that manipulated California’s market Enron-style. Or that, while on this company’s payroll, he lobbied against a bill to expand the CFTC’s authority to police derivatives. Or that the Senate Agriculture Committee, which reviewed his nomination, declined to ask him any specific questions about his pro-deregulation lobbying on not one but two occasions.

O’Malia and two other nominees were unanimously confirmed late Thursday. He will fill the seat vacated by Walter Lukken earlier this year, serving a five-year term that expires in April 2015. O’Malia’s tenure on the 5-member commission comes at a time when the Obama administration is pushing an ambitious financial reform overhaul, which, among other things, includes strengthening the historically toothless CFTC. During his recent confirmation hearing, O’Malia expressed [PDF] his commitment to bolstering oversight and said he would work to “ensure the CFTC uses all of its legal authorities to curb excessing speculation and prevent abusive trading practices, including fraud and manipulation.” Given his track record, there’s reason to be dubious. An energy analyst recently raised the theory that O’Malia’s nomination caused a rally in the oil market, with investors betting he’d reduce “the risk” the commission will take an aggressive stand on speculation.

It’s always possible that in the years following his stint at Mirant, O’Malia shifted his views on regulation and oversight. It’s possible that he’ll work to strengthen the rules his former company worked to undo. But if not, the Obama administration has succeeded in undermining its own agenda.

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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