In April, we noticed fisherman Jerry Leeman was impressively adept at anti-offshore wind media relations work, and wondered if he was receiving assistance from professional disinformation operatives. Then last month, we spotted a tell suggesting Leeman was working with none other than Steve Milloy, the template for tobacco shills turned climate deniers, to launch his new fishing lobby group. Now, we’ve spotted another clue that Leeman's career change from the high seas to lobbying for the fishing industry has some big fish on the line.
Yesterday, The Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation's disinformation website posing as media, announced that "A conservative nonprofit launched by former Vice President Mike Pence is representing 11 conservative groups in supporting fishermen challenging the extensive power of the federal bureaucracy."
The 11 groups filing an amicus curiae brief to tell SCOTUS to deconstruct the administrative state are basically a handy list of the current crop of Koch-world front groups, including "Project 21 Black Leadership Network," the "Young America Foundation" that trains right-wing propagandists, and "Students for Life of America", whose board includes the billion-dollar donation recipient Leonard Leo. (And of course Pence's political career was revived by Koch cash and the Heritage Foundation has been funded by Koch et al.)
So what do the Koch fronts say to one another? Well, they’re scheming to try to convince the Supreme Court (which Leonard Leo packed) to overturn the Chevron Deference, a long standing judicial precedent giving federal agencies like the EPA and FDA the necessary latitude to enforce the statutes Congress writes. Last year, before the Supreme Court turned "major questions" from right-wing industry dreams into a reality, we and many others explained that SCOTUS may narrow or eliminate the Chevron deference, and severely constrain the federal government's ability to regulate.
SCOTUS didn't go that far with "major questions" last year, but this term, they've taken a case calling for the Chevron ruling to be overturned: Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. At issue? The federal government's regulation of the fishing industry.
And who should turn up in not one but two stories last May (in Fox and the National Review, a Koch-backed disinfo outlet) as the working-class fisherman who's also able to give quotes about Loper Bright and the regulations being challenged? And who was the podcast guest in another Daily Signal piece in June about regulations harming the fishing industry?
That's right — none other than Jerry Leeman! Seems even as he was writing op-eds about how he's "a trawler" who "cannot run a net off the back of my boat with wind turbines obstructing the water column," he was also trawling the murky waters of disinfo media.
Yet a month later, he reportedly "stepped away" from fishing, and it would seem that's because he landed the most lucrative of all catches: a position in the Koch disinfo machine.