Carl Icahn is many things to many people. Employees of Icahn Enterprises call him boss. The White House calls him “Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform,” aka, Secretary of Do Whatever The Fuck You Want, aka “private citizen.” We at Dealbreaker call him Uncle. The man himself says he's just a humble refinery owner.
But what really matters, according to meddlesome watchdog Public Citizen, is what Icahn calls himself when he's got Trump on the horn to pitch him on esoteric ethanol policies that would directly benefit his Icahn Enterprises holding CVR Energy – an investment strategy known in some circles as Have-The-President-Pass-Policy-For-You method. As it turns out, advising the president on matters directly related to your company's bottom line is what Washington insiders call “lobbying,” an activity that requires registering with the government, filling out a bunch of forms, and disclosing your activities.
What a bore! Uncle Carl is way too busy fucking with Bill Ackman for any of that noise. Shouldn't business moguls be able to call up their old friend, the president, and casually suggest executive orders without the feds cramping their style?
Evidently not. As Public Citizen argues, Icahn would have to meet financial disclosures requirements if he were a true White House official, while his self-described advocacy on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which costs his company hundreds of millions of dollars, might just bleed over into the definition of lobbying. As the group's letter to Congress says:
The factual record shows that Mr. Icahn played a leading role shaping the Trump campaign’s position on the point of obligation for the RFS, and served to “vet” candidates to run the EPA, the agency in charge of administrating the RFS. It is not lobbying to advise a candidate, but once Trump became president, Trump then became a covered official subject to the lobbying disclosure law. President-elect Trump then selected Mr. Icahn as a special advisor on regulatory policy, and in that capacity has now provided formal recommendations to President Trump to change the RFS point of obligation in a manner that could save Mr. Icahn’s businesses hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
All of this has occurred with no record of any LDA filings by or on behalf of Mr. Icahn, Icahn Enterprises or CVR Energy. It is unlikely that all these activities occurred without some individual or entity being obligated to report lobbying activity under the LDA.
Just like an atom is both a particle and a wave, Icahn vacillates between lobbyist and White House official fluidly, according to an inner mechanics only he knows. Meanwhile, if you listen to the man himself, he sounds like anything but your ordinary mealy-mouthed lobbyist. From CNNMoney:
Carl Icahn says it's "absurd" that Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats are claiming his new role as President Trump's regulation-buster creates a serious conflict of interest risk. “I think that's completely ridiculous. I don't talk to Donald that often.”
See? He doesn't even talk to the President of the United States “that often” – just when he needs a favor done for his business empire, or maybe if he's feeling lonely. Compare that to a true lobbyist: Most never even get a hand-tug with POTUS, let alone pillow talk. And how many lobbyists just get to drop off the text of an executive order in the Oval Office?
Anyway, Icahn is simply doing what any shareholder should expect of their fiduciary:
“I own a refinery so obviously I have an interest in it, but there are 12 other refineries that are getting killed worse than mine," Icahn said in a phone interview. "I own a refinery. Who knows it better than me? Why shouldn’t I advocate?”
The only answer we can find: $200,000 (i.e., pocket change) and five years in the clink.
Icahn Defends Ethanol Plan Amid Criticism of His Role as Trump Adviser [Bloomberg]
Icahn dismisses conflict of interest concerns as 'absurd' [CNNMoney]
Is Trump Adviser Carl Icahn an Illicit Lobbyist or a Corrupt Official? [The Intercept]
UPDATE: Hoo boy. Uncle Carl responds:
Public Citizen’s assertion that I should be required to register as a lobbyist is another gross misstatement of the facts which is similar to much of the “fake news” that is unfortunately so prevalent today.
I have vetted my activities with a number of lawyers and it is clear that no registration is required.
A more worthwhile investigation would seek to uncover the dark forces behind this witch hunt, which is perhaps being financed either by those seeking to smear President Donald Trump, and anyone associated with him, or those seeking to obfuscate the real issue at hand—the continuing economic devastation being wrought by the Environmental Protection Agency's corrupt Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) trading program.