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Rendell takes heat over pro-fracking commentary

In it, he failed to disclose his $30,000 tie to a firm that invests in energy companies.

Former Governor Ed Rendell being interviewd for the SOns of Ben movie.
Former Governor Ed Rendell being interviewd for the SOns of Ben movie.Read more

HARRISBURG - Never leave anything unsaid is a lesson former Gov. Ed Rendell may have relearned the hard way this week.

Two days ago, the usually loquacious Democrat had an op-ed piece published in the New York Daily News urging New York state to get over its fears and permit hydraulic fracturing - commonly known as fracking - to seek natural gas within its borders.

In the piece, headlined "Why [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo Must Seize the Moment on Hydrofracking," Rendell listed the benefits of natural gas for the region's economic development as well as the nation's energy future. He said Pennsylvania under his watch and since had struck a balance of benefiting from natural gas drilling while protecting the environment.

One thing Rendell didn't mention: He is a paid consultant to a private-equity firm that invests in energy companies, including several with a stake in natural gas drilling.

The nonprofit website ProPublica first wrote about the connection Thursday and tried to nail the former governor down on why his article did not disclose his tie to Element Partners of Radnor.

Rendell also separately acts as a senior adviser to investment bank Greenhill & Co., which has advised on a number of natural gas-related financial transactions.

Those are among many hats he has worn since leaving the governorship in January 2011 - lawyer with a big Center City firm, lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, commentator for MSNBC. Indeed, he was rushing off to an appearance on the cable network Thursday.

Daily News editors said they were not aware of Rendell's connection to Element when they published his op-ed Wednesday. They have since added a note to the online version: "Rendell is a paid consultant to Element Partners, a private-equity firm with stake in a number of energy companies, including hydrofracking/natural gas interests. This information was not disclosed at the time his op-ed was submitted to the News."

In a brief interview Thursday, Rendell called the matter "ludicrous" because, he said, he makes no money from natural gas drilling and would not "get a dime" if New York allowed fracking within its borders.

Rendell said Element pays him a $30,000 fee for his work, but the money is not tied to any natural gas investment's performance. He also noted that Element invests in other industries, including methane and wind energy.

Element's website identifies him as one of the firm's 10 "operating partners," described as "experienced executives with expertise and contacts. . . [who] work actively to support portfolio company growth."

"This idea that I'm a shill for natural gas companies is ludicrous," the former governor said. "I have no contact with [natural gas] companies and I don't advise them."

Having said that, Rendell said he believed his tie to Element should be disclosed in the future.

So was it an oversight for the op-ed not to mention it?

"It's an oversight only in procedure," he said, "because I do not advise natural gas companies or benefit from them, or make any money on them."