Follow the money: Global warming polluters pay to undermine Waxman-Markey clean energy bill

The average energy committee member opposed or wavering on the green economy legislation has received six times as much lifetime climate polluter cash as the average supporter.

It’s the golden rule of politics — whoever has the gold gives it to whoever makes the rules.  In some sense, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is the worst place to make climate legislation, since it is more conservative than the House as a whole and stacked with members who represent major, traditional (aka heavily polluting) energy interests.

Brad Johnson of Wonk Room has put together this chart of “Average lifetime contributions from the automotive, steel & chemical, oil & gas, and mining & utility sectors to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Energy & Environment Subcommittee.”  The position of members on Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act is taken from E&E News (see “One Hard Thing You Must Do to Save the Planet” and below).

Average Pollution Contributions to Energy Committee Members

Below is the rest of Brad’s analysis plus a Progress Report that delves into the issue further:

Last week, President Obama and Vice President Biden urged the Democrats on the House energy committee during a White House meeting to take “quick action” on comprehensive green economy legislation. Negotiations over how much industries will be subsidized to make the transition to clean energy have stalled subcommittee negotiations over the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act. In a moment of candor, ACES co-sponsor Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the chair of the subcommittee in question, explained that fellow Democrats acting as representatives for climate polluters were holding up the bill:

If we can reach agreement with the coal sector, with the steel, with the auto sector, with the refining sector on our committee, which is very representative of the Congress as a whole, then we believe that’ll be a template for passage in the Senate, as well. Because the agreements we’ll reach will be the very same agreements that those industry leaders “¦ will be able to represent to senators are the basis for passage of legislation that they can support.

Members of Markey’s energy and environment subcommittee with strong ties to those sectors include Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA: $50,942 from steel), Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN: $113,033 from auto), Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT: $177,946 from coal), and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX: $330,613 from oil). The trade publication E&E News has identified 13 members of the 34-member subcommittee as swing votes. These “maybe” officials have received an average of $678,570 in lifetime contributions from those sectors, as opposed to $149,397 for the nine “yes” votes [see figure above].

The average energy committee member opposed or wavering on the green economy legislation has received six times as much lifetime climate polluter cash as the average supporter:

Waxman-Markey Total Carbon Contributions
Carbon-sector contributions to members of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Click to enlarge.

The obstructionist politicians working to weaken the ACES Act are ironically threatening the future of the industries who fill their campaign coffers. The nation needs to set strong standards for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and global warming pollution in order to compete in the 21st century economy. “Limiting greenhouse gas emissions will enhance U.S. competitiveness,” Center for American Progress senior fellow Jake Caldwell writes. “A carbon cap-and-trade program will reduce emissions and send a predictable price signal on carbon, which in turn will spur major investment in energy efficient and low-carbon technologies, foster innovation and upgrades, and create jobs and export led growth in clean energy technology.”

When the incomplete draft of the ACES Act was unveiled at the end of March, co-sponsors Markey and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, indicated that they planned to conduct a markup of the bill in Markey’s subcommittee before going to the full committee. After the meeting with Obama, Waxman announced that he could potentially bypass Markey’s subcommittee “and mark up the legislation before the entire 59-member panel.”

[JR:  Before listing all the members and where they stand, here is an excerpt from the Progress Report, “Polluting the Debate]:

POLLUTER CAMPAIGN CASH: Markey has explained that the bill can’t move forward without the cooperation of fellow Democrats on the 58-member energy committee, many of whom are representing “the coal sector, with the steel, with the auto sector, with the refining sector.” These sectors generate billions of tons of greenhouse gases each year through the burning of fossil fuels. A Progress Report analysis has found that the average committee member opposed to, or wavering on, the green economy legislation has received six times as much lifetime climate polluter cash as the average supporter. The Democrats supported by millions in pollution contributions have successfully negotiated concessions from Waxman and Markey, including “lower targets for renewable energy,” “a smaller reduction by 2020 in the emissions blamed for global warming,” and freely allocating “valuable permits to release pollution to electricity distribution companies and auto manufacturers.” Ironically, these concessions threaten the future of these very industries because the nation needs to set strong clean-energy standards in order to compete in the 21st century economy and invest in green job recovery. The changes led Center for American Progress fellow Joseph Romm to downgrade the bill from a “B+” to “about a B or B-.”

POLLUTER LOBBYISTS: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), in a Senate hearing Tuesday, decried the extraordinary amount of spending by corporate global warming polluters to lobby Congress. Reading from an E&E News story on new lobbying disclosures, Whitehouse noted that carbon polluters such as electric utilities and oil and gas companies have spent nearly $80 million on lobbying just in the first quarter of 2009. “So if we wonder why the Senate is the last place in America that still doesn’t get it that climate change is a real problem for people and that carbon pollution is something that people should pay for when they emit it — big utilities, big industry — gee, connect the dots,” Whitehouse concluded. By comparison, environmental organizations have spent a combined $4.7 million and the entire renewable energy industry has spent $7.5 million, both less than the $9.3 million spent by Exxon Mobil alone. The lobbying to water down the bill has been effective, as many moderate Democrats in the Senate now question clean energy reform, repeating industry arguments. For example, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is “against forcing petrochemical companies” to “bear the brunt of new costs.” And Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) worries a cap on carbon pollution “could have a negative impact on our economy by raising utility rates on consumers.”

POLLUTER FRONT GROUPS: At the same Senate hearing, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) waved a “smoking gun” document that he said showed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that greenhouse gases are a danger to public welfare “was based more on political calculations than on scientific ones.” The interagency review memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) argued that regulation would have “serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the US economy.” “Obama Administration Memo Warns of Harm to Economy if Greenhouse Gases Regulated through Clean Air Act,” wrote ABC News’s Jake Tapper. As OMB director Peter Orszag explained, however, there was no real controversy: “[W]e simply receive comments from various agencies and pass them along to EPA for consideration, regardless of the substantive merit of those comments.” The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder has revealed that the author of the comments was Joseph M. Johnson, a Bush administration holdover in the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. Johnson was previously a research fellow at the Mercatus Center, an anti-regulatory think tank founded by Koch Industries, the largest private company in the U.S. that is involved in practically every sector of global warming pollution. The billionaire Koch brothers have provided over $120 million in the past 20 years to the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, the Mercatus Center, and dozens of other right-wing, anti-regulatory, and global warming-denial organizations. These organizations provide an intellectual veneer and grassroots feel to the decades-long effort by polluters like Koch and Exxon to prevent clean energy reform and preserve their dirty profits.

E&E News Projected Vote Breakdown For Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act:

Yes (18)

Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Lois Capps (D-CA)
Jane Harman (D-CA)
Janice Schakowsky (D-IL)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Anthony Weiner (D-NY)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Donna Christensen (D-VI)
Kathy Castor (D-FL)
John Sarbanes (D-MD)
Christopher Murphy (D-CN)
Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
Bruce Braley (D-IA)
Peter Welch (D-VT)

Maybe (19)

John Dingell (D-MI)
Rick Boucher (D-VA)
Bart Gordon (D-TN)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Bart Stupak (D-MI)
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Gene Green (D-TX)
Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Mike Doyle (D-PA)
Charles Gonzalez (D-TX)
Mike Ross (D-AR)
Jim Matheson (D-UT)
G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
Charlie Melancon (D-LA)
John Barrow (D-GA)
Baron Hill (D-IN)
Zach Space (D-OH)
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
Betty Sutton (D-OH)

No (22)

Joe Barton (R-TX)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Cliff Stearns (R-FL)
Nathan Deal (R-GA)
Ed Whitfield (R-KY)
John Shimkus (R-IL)
John Shadegg (R-AZ)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Steve Buyer (R-IN)
George Radanovich (R-CA)
Joseph Pitts (R-PA)
Greg Walden (R-OR)
Lee Terry (R-NE)
Michael Rogers (R-MI)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
John Sullivan (R-OK)
Tim Murphy (R-PA)
Mike Burgess (R-TX)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Phil Gingrey (R-GA)
Steve Scalise (R-LA)

3 Responses to Follow the money: Global warming polluters pay to undermine Waxman-Markey clean energy bill

  1. ZS says:

    Democrat – 36 Yes, 18 Maybe, 0 No
    Republican – 0 Yes, 1 Maybe, 22 No


    The other day in a group discussion on climate/sustainability I offered up Joe’s idea that the Republican party’s opposition to any meaningful action on energy and climate change will eventually lead to their final downfall. That argument was quickly dismissed with the example of Republican support for Nixon, which was politically disastrous but eventually forgotten. And who knows, they may be right – it’s certainly not easy to predict the political climate a few decades in advance.

    But previous political debacles held the advantage of being “fixable” in the long term. In contrast, the ramifications of the lack of action on climate change change today will continue to play out for the rest of the century and beyond. It’s almost like bowling – we may be able to put some spin on the ball in the future, but the sad fact is that our initial throw is aimed forcefully into the gutter. I could be wrong, but hopefully the public won’t forget who delayed and diluted the aggressive climate legislation that is so desperately needed.

  2. PaulK says:

    Why is General Electric, an all out leader in lobbying dollars spent, not included in this report?