Apr 30, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Oil lobby expected to tap Beltway veteran for top role

The American Petroleum Institute plans to soon name Mike Sommers, a former high-level Capitol Hill aide, as its next president and CEO, according to multiple industry sources.

Why it matters: API is the largest and most influential lobbying group representing all types of oil and gas companies. Sommers will take over a surprisingly rocky relationship between President Trump and the industry, who have tangled over biofuels, trade restrictions, and how far to roll back regulations.

Gritty details: Sommers, who has led the American Investment Council since February 2016, was previously a top aide to former House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio. Sommers served as his chief of staff, among other roles. Current head of API, Jack Gerard, announced in January he intends to resign this summer after a decade leading the group.

For the record: A spokesman for API said "the successor to Jack Gerard will be announced at the appropriate time once the committee has completed its work." An email and phone message sent to Sommers were not immediately returned.

The intrigue:

  • API's executive committee voted to select Sommers late last week, and an announcement is likely as soon as this week after the board approves him, according to multiple industry officials.
  • The post is one of the most sought-after trade association jobs in Washington. Gerard made more than $6 million in total annual compensation in 2015, according to public tax filings. The group also spent more than $8 million on lobbying last year, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

What we're hearing: Sommers is an experienced Hill operative, though he doesn't have much experience (if any) working in the oil and gas industry.

"What we need is a highly strategic and effective advocate for our industry. Someone who intimately knows all of our Hill allies, from having been in the trenches with them. Someone who is respected for having extraordinary political understanding and abilities and is widely considered to be formidable. Mike is that person."
— Industry official familiar with the development

The other side:

“He doesn’t know the first thing about the industry, that’s kind of the gamble.”
— Another industry official familiar with the news
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