Conservative group attacks credibility of ESG study in Oklahoma


A Washington, D.C. based conservative group, the American Accountability Foundation, has come out attacking the credibility of the University of Central Oklahoma professor whose recent study of the state’s energy discrimination act was used in criticizing the enforcement of the measure.

The Foundation, using the Open Records Act in Oklahoma, obtained an email sent by Dr. Travis Roach, the author of the highly critical study, in which he admitted he knew nothing about the topic as he asked for help from a colleague.

Dr. Roach’s email was sent to Dr. Linh Pham, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Lake Forest College in Illinois.

Roach responded to an OK Energy Today inquiry and explained he had been made aware of the email as well as a Twitter thread from the same group.

“The only response I have to this ad hominem attack is that I was simply asking a colleague for advice on a good data source – not that I have no expertise on the matter or have no expertise on the use of econometrics to determine the effects of policy on outcomes. They are seeking to take my words out of context to discredit me and have said nothing about the substance of my report.”

Thomas H. Jones, co-founder of the American Accountability Foundation called it “an example of the worst type of academic pay to play” in referring to the Oklahoma Rural Association paying $6,800 for Dr. Roach to conduct his study.

Jones reached out to OK Energy Today in an email and requested a correction for stories about the topic.

“When it comes to the impact of ESG on local government finances, the topic of his research report, it is “a topic (Dr. Roach) knows almost nothing about.” That’s not my opinion, that’s Dr. Roach’s own words,” emailed Jones. The request for help made by Dr. Roach was in February, months before the release of his study.

Later in a telephone interview with OK Energy Today, Jones said it’s clear Roach is “not an expert on this.” He called the study and the use of Roach by the ORA to be “irresponsible and borderline malpractice.”

OK Energy Today reached out to Monica Collison, President and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Rural Association and she had not responded before the story was posted.

The ORA announced the results of Dr. Roach’s study in April, using it to criticize the two year old Oklahoma Energy Discrimination Elimination Act and claim the Act has harmed municipalities with increased borrowing rates and costs.

Dr. Roach called his study “Unintended Consequences of the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act in Oklahoma.”

“It is clear that the EDEA has caused an unnecessary increase in municipal borrowing rates, increasing costs, harming taxpayers, and resulting in municipalities paying more for less or canceling projects altogether. These unintended consequences are causing significant harm to Oklahoma communities and our economy,” he stated in the study released in April.

The study detailed a nearly 16% increase in borrowing costs for Oklahoma municipalities and a combined $184,777,344 in additonal expenses for the local municipalties since the ESG policy was enacted and enforced by the state Treasurer.

At the time the study was released, Monica Collison, President of the Oklahoma Rural Association stated, “The negative impact of the EDEA on Oklahoma taxpayers and communities, including those in rural and underserved areas, was completely avoidable and, as the research shows, a direct, negative result of these failed policies.”

She encouraged lawmakers to “right this wrong.”

The American Accountability Foundation website proclaims it promotes “Investigative Research and Oversight to Elevate Truth in Government.” The AAF is described as an American conservative opposition research group founded in 2020 and described by the New Yorker as a dark money group.

Jones,the co-founder, is reported to have previously worked for Republican senators Ron Johnson, Ted Cruze, Jim DeMint and John Ensign.