Home > Uncategorized > Gov. Murphy Appoints Former Corporate Lawyer As DEP Commissioner, Hides His Record Behind LGBTQ Identity Politics

Gov. Murphy Appoints Former Corporate Lawyer As DEP Commissioner, Hides His Record Behind LGBTQ Identity Politics

A Classic Case of “Progressive Neoliberalism” In Action

Revolving Door Appointment Is Praised By “Progressives”

[Update: 2/2/21 – Chris Hedges writes powerfully on a similar topic:

Bill Clinton and his two treasury secretary enablers, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, instituted a system of unregulated capitalism that has resulted in financial anarchy. This anarchic form of capitalism, where everything, including human beings and the natural world, is a commodity to exploit until exhaustion or collapse, is justified by identity politics. It is sold as “enlightened liberalism” as opposed to the old pro-union class politics that saw the Democrats heed the voices of the working class. Financial anarchy and short-term plunder have destroyed long-term financial and political stability. It has also pushed the human species, along with most other species, closer and closer towards extinction.  ~~~ end update]

Gov. Murphy once again has demonstrated that he fits the profile of what professor Nancy Fraser calls a “Progressive Neoliberal”.

Professor Fraser describes “progressive neoliberalism”:

This may sound to some like an oxymoron, but it is a real, if perverse, political alignment that holds the key to understanding the U.S. election results and perhaps some developments elsewhere too. In its U.S. form, progressive neoliberalism is an alliance of mainstream currents of new social movements (feminism, anti-racism, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights), on the one side, and high-end “symbolic” and service-based business sectors (Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood), on the other. In this alliance, progressive forces are effectively joined with the forces of cognitive capitalism, especially financialization. However unwittingly, the former lend their charisma to the latter. Ideals like diversity and empowerment, which could in principle serve different ends, now gloss policies that have devastated manufacturing and what were once middle-class lives.

See also Fraser’s superb essay “From Progressive Neoliberalism To Trump – And Beyond”:

Progressive neoliberals did not dream up this political economy. That honor belongs to the Right: to its intellectual luminaries Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan; to its visionary politicians, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan; and to their deep-pocketed enablers, Charles and David Koch, among others. But the right-wing “fundamentalist” version of neoliberalism could not become hegemonic in a country whose common sense was still shaped by New Deal thinking, the “rights revolution,” and a slew of social movements descended from the New Left. For the neoliberal project to triumph, it had to be repackaged, given a broader appeal, linked to other, noneconomic aspirations for emancipation. Only when decked out as progressive could a deeply regressive political economy become the dynamic center of a new hegemonic bloc.

It fell, accordingly, to the “New Democrats” to contribute the essential ingredient: a progressive politics of recognition. Drawing on progressive forces from civil society, they diffused a recognition ethos that was superficially egalitarian and emancipatory. At the core of this ethos were ideals of “diversity,” women’s “empowerment,” and LGBTQ rights; post-racialism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism. These ideals were interpreted in a specific, limited way that was fully compatible with the Goldman Sachsification of the U.S. economy. Protecting the environment meant carbon trading. Promoting home ownership meant subprime loans bundled together and resold as mortgage-backed securities. Equality meant meritocracy.

Perfectly illustrating Fraser’s “progressive neoliberalism” paradigm, Gov. Murphy – a former Wall Street Goldman Sachs executive – just announced that Shawn LaTourette – a former corporate lawyer – will assume leadership of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the wake of the retirement of DEP Commissioner McCabe.

Gov. Murphy’s press release that announced the appointment of LaTourette as Acting Commissioner downplayed his corporate legal background, instead creating the misleading impression that LaTourette was a public interest lawyer:

With twenty years of environmental experience, LaTourette began his career partnering with the Erin Brockovich law firm to organize and defend New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals. Born and raised in New Jersey, LaTourette graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University and earned his law degree summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School, where he was the class salutatorian and the recipient of multiple environmental and governance awards, and published scholarship on environmental law, natural resource damage, and climate issues. Before entering public service, LaTourette specialized in protecting the rights of victims of toxic injuries while also advising infrastructure, transportation, energy, and other industries on compliance with state and federal environmental laws and policies. Prior to joining the Murphy Administration, he was most recently a Director of the Environmental Law Department at Gibbons PC, where he focused on brownfields redevelopment projects and litigated environmental cases in state and federal court.

Note that the Gov. fails to name LaTourette’s corporate clients or the projects he provided compliance assistance to.

 (which raises an important question for the intrepid journalists out there: Did LaTourette name these corporate clients in his ethics disclosure form and has he filed recusals? OPRA is your friend. So is Google of literature on “revolving door” and “corporate capture”. The story writes itself.)

Gov. Murphy went on to tout the fact thathe will be the first openly gay Commissioner of Environmental Protection in the nation”:

A devoted advocate for equality of all people, LaTourette was elected to serve as Chair of the LGBTQ Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, completing his term in 2020, and will be the first openly gay Commissioner of Environmental Protection in the nation.

We’ve called out LaTourette several times – on his record, not his sexual preference – particularly for his involvement and how he lied about the DEP’s role in a Trump EPA toxic experiment at the Union County incinerator in Rahway, a DEP designated EJ community.

In response to public outrage over this, DEP Commissioner McCabe and Mr. Latourette blamed the public. (NJ Spotlight)

LaTourette said protesters, particularly in New Jersey’s environmental justice communities, had “misperceptions” about what the incineration would consist of, and misplaced fears that the experiment posed a risk to public health.

“Bad information can sow mistrust, and it can sow a misunderstanding of the facts that can lead folks to think that they are in danger of being harmed, and that’s the last thing we want,” he told reporters.

Those lies were so serious that we documented them and called for his resignation, see:

LaTourette not only lied to cover his ass, he has attacked his critics and community activists, who correctly had criticized LaTourette’s misguided and ideological statements about DEP climate adaptation regulations, see:

LaTourette also revealed his corporate finance and real estate background and Neoliberal economic ideology in recent media coverage of upcoming DEP climate adaptation and environmental justice regulations, see:

LaTourette also proved his willingness to shamelessly spin to defend the Governor and mislead the public, see:

We hope that LaTourette’s Acting Commissioner tenure will be short and that Gov. Murphy is in the process of conducting a national search for a true environmental leader to take the helm at DEP.

[End Note #1: LaTourette’s appointment was praised by Garden State Equality – again validating Fraser’s “Progressive Neoliberalism” paradigm.

Which reminds me that Paul Street has a good essay running over at CounterPunch laying out his 9 reasons why the left fails. In addition to his point on “ excessive identitarianism “, I thought this point of critique about silos was also very relevant to the LaTourette situation:

No Real Left

Eighth, the continuing and longtime absence of any sophisticated, powerful, and relevant, many-sided Left of significance in late Neoliberal America is a significant part of the tragic equation. No such movement would have met the rise of Trump and Trumpism-fascism with four years of avoidance, denial, passivity, and diversion. There are many factors in play behind this pathetic portside weakness but two that have struck this writer and activist as particularly relevant alongside excessive localism and excessive identitarianism in the last four years are (i) the crippling holds of sectarianism (an almost pathological refusal to reach across tribal-ideological and organizational lines to form a united anti-fascist front) and (ii) single-issue silo politics whereby group A cares about the climate, group B cares about reproductive rights, group C cares about a higher minimum wages, group D cares about teachers’ working conditions and so on.

Someone’s gotta call out this bullshit.

[End Note #2 – Here’s the OPRA request to DEP I just filed – please file one yourself!

I request copies of the: 1) ethics disclosure forms, 2) ethics officer review guidance to LaTourette, and 3) recusals filed by Shawn LaTourette.

I request the initial disclosure, guidance, and recusals filed in 2018 and the updated disclosures, guidance, and recusals filed upon his appointment b y Gov. Murphy as Acting Commissioner on 1/16/21

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