The Jacki Daily Show is upsetting the apple carts of the anti-frac crowd, while bringing a needed dose of truth to a very misled marketplace.
by Jesse Mullins
MIDLAND, TEXAS—It was a comical moment. Just one of those wry occasions when someone says something amusing enough to bring chuckles all around and a lot of “ain’t it the truth” looks shared around the room.
The membership of the PBPA was gathered at the Petroleum Club of Midland on March 19 for its usual monthly luncheon, listening to keynote speaker Jacki Daily, host of the Jacki Daily Show, a radio program devoted to telling the true story of today’s oil and gas industry. Daily—her real name is Jacki Pick—was describing what it was like to oppose the anti-frac’ing crowd in Denton prior to the Denton anti-frac’ing vote.
“I went to the Denton frac ban debates,” Pick said. “I participated in the debate. I hosted a screening of FrackNation. I was there for everything. I reported on everything. Well, when you go to the Denton frac debate, and you stroll into the foyer of the auditorium, the anti-frac’ing side had a table that was well-manned, with its propaganda laid out.
“There was a pamphlet there from a group called Food and Water Watch. Now, this is the lead publication that the anti-frac side used. This is what they led with.”
Here she projected a Powerpoint slide that showed the pamphlet.
“This is called, ‘The Social Cost of Fracking: A Pennsylvania Case Study.’ Here is what they led with in Denton. This is what won the day in Denton. Three photographs on the front: you see a traffic jam, you see a man who is in jail, and then you see like a Planned Parenthood clinic or something. And you’re asking yourself, ‘What does this have to do with frac’ing?’
“Now, I’m not going to cherry pick this publication. I don’t want to you think I’m just cherry picking ridiculous things out. I’m going to go to the executive summary and take the bold-faced print and show you what they’re arguing in Denton, Texas.”
She advances the slide and goes to the summary.
“Look right here, bold face: ‘Fracking is associated with heavy truck crashes.’ Okay. ‘Fracking is associated with more social disorder arrests.’”
That explains the traffic jam and the jailed dude, apparently. And then the laugher:
“And finally, ‘Fracking is associated with more cases of sexually transmitted infections. After fracking, the average increase in chlamydia and gonorrhea was 62 percent greater in heavily fracked rural counties than in un-fracked rural counties.’”
Pick pauses while that sinks in—including the awkward, ridiculous double entendre of “fracking”—and as the chuckles die down, she gets to her point, which will be her main point of the day.
“These people were proud to stand at that table and hand this out to the people in Denton, Texas. I mean, this is what they led with. Like this counts as quality information on the other side! Yeah, versus what we have, right? I mean, if you go to ipaa.org [website of the Independent Petroleum Association of America], you get a brain trust there and all the scientific studies, white papers, authorities with credentials, real scientists putting out publications. But this [she gestures toward the screen] is what they’ve got. And this is what won in Denton, Texas, by 18 percentage points.”
And with that, the amusement shifts to dismay. And maybe aggravation. How could such tactics bring about such a troublesome setback, not just for the energy industry but for the American public that is the ultimate victim of these tactics? And yet this scenario is one that can yet unfold in untold numbers of communities across the country. Yesterday it was Denton. Tomorrow it could be Alpine or College Station. Or even entire U.S. states.
Such was Pick’s point, and she brought it home with examples and statistics. But she brought hope as well, as she outlined what she believes could be a blueprint for recovering public trust and turning around public opinion.
Pick is among the front ranks of a rising new breed of polemicists who are challenging previously unchallenged assertions by detractors of oil and gas. This industry has always been the target of detractors, in greater or lesser numbers in any era, but recent times have seen an uptick in the number of people who view oil and gas in a negative light—especially oil and gas interests that employ hydraulic fracturing techniques.
In politics, candidates for office can draw votes to themselves by being for a particular issue or against a particular issue. If the cause the candidate supports is popular and timely enough, the candidate is buoyed by that issue’s own popularity. Conversely, if a candidate can position himself as being against a particular practice or problem, if he can frame himself as someone championing the opposition to that perceived problem, he can make political hay that way.
Thus, just as there are bandwagon issues that draw parties and candidates to them purely for the fact that those issues have political usefulness, so there are elements of our daily lives that can be demonized for political gain. It seems that somewhere, in recent times, oil and gas has been appropriated as an issue of the latter type. Drawing political fire is not a new situation for oil and gas, but finding itself as election fodder—as swing vote material—this seems to be something disturbingly new. Obviously, any industry or cause that gets itself in the crosshairs of powerful political forces is an industry that has something especially troublesome to deal with. The reason for greater concern is the fact that opponents now derive some kind of additional gain—that is, influence in general, success in general—simply by manufacturing fresh charges against the targeted entity. What plays well, plays well. What wins power, wins power. There are forces today that feather their own nests by demonizing oil and gas. That’s something larger than the scattered unpopularity that oil and gas felt from certain quarters as little as three to four years ago.
As Pick told PBOG, in a conversation apart from her Midland visit, the “other side” has succeeded in politicizing what really are very standard, basic, energy production issues.
“Whether it’s frac’ing—and, of course, without frac’ing we don’t have a shale revolution—we’re no longer the number one natural gas producer, we’re no longer in the running for the number one oil producer,” Pick said. “That is part of what the [adversaries] are after, but today the broader goals for the people who are politicizing this is to simply be able to leverage votes. Votes and money.
“Once that happens, you find yourself in a bad posture. We really did not get out in front of that to stop that from happening. The people, for example, who oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline… I promise you, they don’t know that there are already over two million miles of pipeline running beneath our feet in the United States. I promise you they don’t know that. If they listen to my show they’ll know that. They also don’t realize that every facet of their life is facilitated by what moves in those pipelines. They don’t understand it, so these are just basic things that we have to communicate to people. We have to, most of all, replace fear with fact, because fear is the primary driver for most human beings. That is what has won today with these frac’ing disputes.”
Hosting a radio show is what Jacki Pick—she has chosen to go by the on-air name Jacki Daily—is best known for publicly, but she says that her “day job” is a different role, one she fills for the National Center for Policy Analysis (ncpa.org), a think tank headquartered in Dallas. NCPA concentrates on public policy regarding issues of energy, healthcare, and tax reform. There, serving under its CEO, Col. Allen West, whom television viewers of Fox News know well as an on-air guest and commentator, she holds the positions of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
Here’s what her boss there had to say about her:
“I have known Jacki Pick for five years. and having spent 22 years in the U.S. Army and having been deployed into several combat zones, I can say you will find no one possessing higher standards of honor, courage, competence, commitment, and character,” Col. West said. “I chose Jacki to be the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Center for Policy Analysis due to her impeccable demeanor and integrity, which is above reproach. She is and will be one of the great American principled leaders.”
Meanwhile, within her radio family, the professional stature of Pick is best summed up by her partner Kraig Kitchin, at Sound Mind World Headquarters. Said Kitchin: “Jacki has been able to take the impact of energy in our day-to-day lives and make it a relevant conversation to listeners. The audience trust that she’s building in the process of making energy a conversation topic is simply remarkable.” Information about the show, and a live stream, can be accessed at its website at jackidaily.com.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the show airs on 570 KLIF-AM, a Cumulus Media station, and it broadcasts worldwide on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze Radio Network (theblaze.com/radio). Its producers are trying to expand it into more local markets as an on-the-dial offering.
Pick’s partner Kitchin is the founder of Premiere Radio Networks, which is still the largest syndicator on Earth, with 4,600 outlets. It’s a $300 million company that Kitchin built from the ground up. Kitchin also partners with Glenn Beck, creator of The Blaze, an operation whose website gets 33 million unique visitors per week. That site—theblaze.com—currently carries The Jacki Daily Show.
Pick, who grew up in southern Ohio in a family with ties to the energy industry (“We do coal and nuclear, mostly, and a little bit of oil”), studied law, taking her degree at the Vanderbilt Law School. After stints as a corporate litigator and as an assistant vice president for a national bank, she took herself and her dreams to Washington, D.C., where she began a role on Capitol Hill that would last seven years, as counsel to the Subcommittee on the Constitution.
She came to Washington with high aspirations and high ideals. “I really believed that what determines the future of a people is the ideas they collectively hold. What god do you serve? What do you believe about personal responsibility? Do you believe in capitalism or collectivism? These determine your future. I still believe that.”
But some of her coworkers were not so idealistic. And when Pick would become discouraged at the seeming indifference in much of Washington to making real progress, those coworkers would just dismiss it all as pragmatism or life-as-usual. “It’s all just theater,” they would tell her.
She wasn’t interested in politics-as-usual. She managed to align herself with some individuals who at least knew what the problems really were.
“I was the Republican counsel,” she told PBPA members at the March luncheon. “I served a chairman who was third generation oil and gas. He is the only member of Congress to ever frac a well, and he has a lot to do with how I see the world. His name is Trent Franks; he’s from Arizona—from Phoenix.”
Franks, it turns out, shaped Pick’s thinking considerably.
“Why did I decide to leave being counsel for the Subcommittee on the Constitution to do this? Well, my boss convinced me, over a seven year period, that it didn’t matter what we were working on, it all went back to energy. Whether it’s jobs and the economy, whether it’s geopolitics, whether it’s getting out of the recession, it’s cancelling out the debt, it’s erasing the trade deficit—it does all of that. Everything went back to energy for us, even though we were so idealistic and down in the trenches in the Subcommittee on the Constitution.
“So I believed, based on what my boss taught me, that obviously, using advanced technology and harnessing as much as we can of our resources, is critical. Yet, you have a machine that’s working against you. One that is not fully understood. The potency of what is coming against you with the environmental movement is not well understood. And I got to learn a lot of this on Capitol Hill.”
But soon she knew she had to leave and make her way in the world outside of the Washington merry-go-round.
“I’m still very idealistic, but I’ll tell you, seven years up there, under the Republican leadership I served, was very difficult and demoralizing. And after 2012, I decided that maybe nothing good was going to happen there for a little while.
“I figured out that the only thing the Republican leadership feared from the conservative side of the party, which included me, by the way, is talk radio. They fear talk radio. What they don’t want is Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh or someone like that turning their listeners on to Capitol Hill, because they will flood the phone system, and absolutely cause a lot of trouble for the leadership.”
So Pick knew she wanted to do something that was energy-related. And she could see that radio can be effective in swaying minds. She had seen how Glenn Beck had packed up his show and taken it to Texas. She decided that was what she would do herself.
“And, so, I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to Texas. I’m going to the place that is the most opposite of Washington, D.C., and I’m gonna show ’em.’ That’s really what happened; that’s really what I did. People say, ‘How did you get into this?’ And the answer is, I decided. You know, I just decided. I’m going to Texas, I’m going to a place with no income tax, and guess what, I’m moving there on April 15, on tax day—on purpose! I mean, it was so deliberate. It was so symbolic. And that was just the way I live.”
It wasn’t long after she’d launched her program that she was drawn into the Denton anti-frac’ing controversy.
“I was right there,” Pick said. “I was in Denton, Texas, nonstop. I can contrast for you the two campaigns, the two sides—what went right, what went wrong.”
Her analysis brings some surprises.
“The numbers show that the industry’s side outspent the anti-frac’ing side ten to one. And, you know, we had our tails handed to us. We lost that by 18 percentage points. So, you outspend them ten to one, you lose by 18 points. Now, my show didn’t debut in Dallas until the first of October, so I only had one month to message, and every single show was on the Denton frac ban.”
But Pick came to Midland to try to offer prescriptions, not just diagnosis, and her talk shifted to tactics.
“Here are my thoughts,” she said. “First of all, when we do a campaign, we don’t work together. Any of you who have tried to get involved in something like this, you’ve probably gone to your campaign leaders and said, ‘How can we help?’ We did. Others tried to help, too. But the people running the campaign said, ‘We’ve got it covered, and we’re going to win. Don’t worry about it.’
“And so, what they did was, a lot of direct mail, a lot of billboards, yard signs, t-shirts. That’s it. They weren’t present at the Denton frac debate. There wasn’t a social media campaign. Here’s the issue. At the bottom of all those things [all that signage and branding] you’ll see ‘Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy.’ No one knows who that is, but everyone in Denton believes it’s the industry. Because it was, right? Okay. My point is, it’s a human-less, faceless campaign. There is no human being associated with that campaign.
“Meanwhile, what’s going on on the other side? Every day there are human beings standing outside the Piggly Wiggly or whatever grocery store, and they’re holding a petition, and they are looking you right in the eye, and they’re emotionally telling you, frantically, how they’re concerned about their kids. And they’re walking door to door, and I mean door to door—hitting the same door three times. And they are doing social media.
“This is important, because every time on Facebook or on Twitter that you get a message on social media, that message came to you by another human being whom you know. It’s someone you friended. Right? You had to friend that person or you had to accept their friend request to be connected to that person. And the point is, it’s one thing to see a message somewhere, it’s another thing to see a message, and it’s clearly endorsed by whoever posted it. So that makes it more interesting. It’s not just a message, it’s ‘Oh! There’s a message from Jacki!’ Or whoever their friend is.”
But the oil and gas side never really engaged the community in a person-to-person fashion.
Pick noted that people in Colorado and Denton, Texas may not know about industry groups like the IPAA, such that if quality research that supports energy production is posted on an industry-centric website, the public may never learn about it. “And even if they know it is there, the chances that they are going to read an 82-page white paper are highly unlikely. So you have to message to them the way the other side does—social media, person to person.”
Having concluded her prescription, Pick made one final point.
“I’m going to tell you why I came here [to Midland],” she said. “I’m going to tell you why I did this. In my opinion, the future of the people—our future, our next 50 years—is determined by two things. Number one: What we believe. Again, what god do we serve? What do we believe about personal responsibility? What do we believe about economics?
Secondarily, our future is determined by our resources. What resources do you have? As long as your ideas are right, you’ll always have control over the resources. Because you’ll always be at the top. You’re going to be the decider. You’re going to be the superpower, as long as your ideas are right. It doesn’t matter that the nomads of the Arabian Peninsula happened to settle on top of a gold mine. We have access to that [gold mine]. And we will use that, and we did—for decades. Hopefully we can slow that down. I really don’t want to see anymore wealth go to the Middle East than it has to, and I try to message against that. But the point is this: if you looked at the year 1500, if you looked at a map of North America and South America, and you said, ‘Which continent will succeed?’ You would have picked South America, because it was so resource rich. North America was, too, but we didn’t have George P. Mitchell and all these people yet to help us actually take full advantage. Right? So, for the longest time, you would have said South America, because that is where the gold was and all the mines, and so forth. But, as you know, the ideas of North America are what made us superior.”
Pick sees the Permian Basin as a place of those ideas. Not just in the region’s technological prowess, but in its ideological ideas, in its unwavering, steady ideals and its Heartland values.
“My guiding light, my North Star, is the [dream] of empowering the United States and most especially the types of people who produce fossil fuels,” Pick concluded. “The people who produce fossil fuels—let’s say Texans—are some of the most patriotic, freedom loving, conservative, smart, proactive, hard-charging, sky-is-the-limit, big-dreaming kind of people. The oil and gas community is my favorite kind of people. They do not see limits and they just go out there and make it happen. They are what fuels this country. They keep the world turning and I am just honored and ecstatic to stand with them in pushing back against junk science and emotion driven activism that would harm the country. That is really where I am coming from.”