Koch-Fueled Americans for Prosperity Takes Credit for Bullying GOP Lawmakers into Climate Denial

Emilee Pierce, in a Political Correction cross-post cover story of this week’s National Journal takes a deeper dive into a question we’ve explored before: What happened to the Republican consensus on climate change?

Three years ago, prominent Republicans including Mitt RomneyNewt Gingrich, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Tim Pawlenty, and Sarah Palin all expressed belief in human-caused climate change. Several even voiced strong support for policies to cap and reduce carbon pollution. Today, all six of these leaders have joined the rest of the Republican Party in a sudden and near-unified retreat to silence or denial.

When contacted by the National Journal, only 65 out of all 289 GOP lawmakers in Congress would agree to be interviewed on the topic. Of those interviewed, only 19 said they believed that human activities are at least partly responsible for climate change. Of the 19, only five (or fewer than 2 percent of GOP lawmakers) attributed a “significant amount” of climate change to human activity.

So, what happened?

It’s not the science that has changed — it’s only gotten stronger. As Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council, said: The level of scientific certainty that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change is comparable to the strength of our understanding that vaccines prevent measles and polio.

What have changed, according to the National Journal, are the types and relative strengths of pressures on GOP lawmakers. Namely, “the rise of the Tea Party, its crusade against regulations, and the influx of vast sums of money into electoral politics from energy companies and sympathetic interest groups.”

Among those groups is Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is backed by fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, Inc. Several reports have highlighted AFP’s role in promoting fossil-fuel-friendly candidates and policies. Others have accused the organization of “astroturfing.”

Surprisingly, AFP isn’t shy about discussing its influence on electoral politics. In fact, in the National Journal article, AFP’s president, Tim Phillips, openly takes credit for bullying — literally threatening — GOP lawmakers with “political peril” should they chose to “play footsie” on climate change and clean energy:

“If you look where the situation was three years ago and where it is today, there’s been a dramatic turnaround. … We’ve made great headway. What it means for the candidates on the Republican side, is if you … buy into green energy or you play footsie on this issue, you do so at your political peril. … And that’s our influence. Groups like Americans for Prosperity have done it.”

A sudden and unified flip flop by almost an entire political party, from acceptance of climate change to silence and outright rejection, is suspect on its own. (Especially given that, to date, no scientific body of national or international standing has offered a dissenting opinion on the fundamentals of manmade warming).  But here we have the president of a fossil-fuel-funded interest group flaunting his role in sparking and enforcing the GOP’s about-face on climate change and clean energy.

One has to wonder: At what point will we stop hearing about serial climate change flip flopping and start hearing about a party-wide bow to industry demands?

Emilee Pierce, in a Political Correction (Media Matters) crosspost

18 Responses to Koch-Fueled Americans for Prosperity Takes Credit for Bullying GOP Lawmakers into Climate Denial

  1. Interesting Times says:

    If there are any Democratic operatives/consultants reading this, please, please, PLEASE make a campaign issue. You have a fossil fuel flack outright bragging his corporate masters own the GOP, outright confessing to a crime against humanity (when you consider the horrific damage fossil fuel pollution does now and will keep on doing in the future)

    We can demand the GOP be asked about their disgusting cowardice as well – here’s a form on ABC News where you can submit a question for the upcoming GOP debate on Dec 10:

    What Question Would You Like to Ask the Republican Presidential Candidates?

    Perhaps, if enough of us submit a question on this issue, it actually will be acknowledged for a change.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Interesting Times, the Democrats have dogged it here because the Blue Dog caucus collects money from the oil companies too. It is a travesty that national Democratic leadership has dropped the ball, and not held the opposition responsible. They could say all kinds of things that would resonate and win them votes, but apparently they are sick to the money, too.

    As for the Republicans, their utter lack of character and conviction here should discredit them forever. A once great political party has been openly bought by greed crazed oligarchs. Were this to be properly communicated to the American people, the entire political balance would change. It’s as if the Democrats don’t want to win.

  3. Interesting Times says:

    “It’s as if the Democrats don’t want to win.”

    Believe me, I’ve often felt the same way. Unlike the GOP, however, Democrats aren’t united in opposition to climate change action, and aren’t fossil-fuel-beholden to the same degree – if they were, Obama would have approved the Keystone pipeline a long time ago. Blue Dogs and coal-state Dems are dreadful, I agree, but you also have Dems who are excellent on the issue like Sheldon Whitehouse.

    So, there’s still hope they could be swayed. There’s still hope that, the more the GOP are exposed for what they are, the more the Dems (at least, the ones who aren’t completely bought and sold) may clue in and stop trying to be Republican-lite (Obama’s economic speech in Kansas was a start).

  4. SecularAnimist says:

    Emilee Pierce wrote: “At what point will we stop hearing about serial climate change flip flopping and start hearing about a party-wide bow to industry demands?”

    Never. Because there is also a “media-wide” bow to industry demands.

    The corporate-owned mass media from which most Americans get most of their information is just as much a part of the Koch Brothers’ propaganda machine as the Republican Party and the so-called “right wing” media.

    The numerous articles posted here at Climate Progress, documenting the “errors” and “failures” in coverage of both climate change and alternative energy — which are in reality neither failures nor errors, but deliberately deceptive propaganda — by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major “mainstream” media outlets, is the proof of that.

  5. James Prescott says:

    The parenthetical comment “or fewer than 2 percent of GOP lawmakers” goes too far. 5 out of your sample of 65 is ~8%, you shouldn’t infer that 100% of the people that didn’t respond have a specific belief.

    That <8% agree is bad enough. Exaggerating just provides an easy point for those wanting to dispute your point.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Interesting, get yourself a copy of Walter Karp’s ‘Indispensable Enemies’, which outlines the collusion between the Democrats and Republicans to keep the rabble in their place and serve the real rulers of the USA, and all capitalist states, the rich. As I say ad nauseam, capitalism and democracy are utterly, irredeemably, antithetical.

  7. Raul M. says:

    Strange thought,
    Bush made a ban on the press telling what was going on with the funerals of returned troops. Are there other things where free speech must be kept to oneself? Must the press make request for the present admin to lift gag orders for our admin to even know the gag order exists?

  8. TKPGH says:

    We need to reach out to all those groups that are on the front lines right now, like United Republic/Get Money Out, the Occupiers, 350, Public Citizen, ScienceDebate 2012 and NoLabels, just to name a few. If we were to connect and share information with the idea to getting everyone going in the same direction, we would be unstoppable.

    I recently reached out to Jimmy Williams of United Republic, which is a creation of Dylan Ratigan’s “GET MONEY OUT” campaign. It’s a response to Citizen’s United. I supplied links to climate and oceans-related material and suggested that the money they are battling is the money that buys delay and denial. He agrees. I offered that Brian Baird or Bob Inglis would be great to have on the show. Hopefully they will follow though. A note of support (to Williams) for the idea would be useful, right about now.

    I have good friends that have already given up. I tell them, “don’t give up, show up.” We need to show up, even if it’s to show support by signing onto a web site.

    Nobody would welcome a shot at getting locked into a room with Tim Phillips more than me, but since that’s unrealistic, I’ll be satisfied with doing what I can to give him and his corrupt, suicidal gang a political bloody nose. We can out-vision this crowd on bad day. So what’s stopping us?
    We need a Progressive Spring!

    Best to all.

  9. Amy says:

    Americans for Prosperity = AFP = Apologists For Polluters. What do you think?

  10. Wes Rolley says:

    you left out Move to Amend.

    We need to attack the power at it’s base. Move to Amend leadership includes David Cobb, the Green Party Presidential Candidate in 2004 who took voter irregularities in Ohio to court, and Ben Manski, Founder of the Liberty Tree Foundation and currently campaign Manager for Dr. Jill Stein’s presidential campaign.

  11. Joe Romm says:


  12. sailrick says:

    Some good news
    Senator Bernie Sanders made a speech saying he is introducing an Constitutional Amendment to remove the person satus of corporations.

  13. Robert Cox says:

    This is the essential heart of the problem – that the Supreme Court has inevitably given way to the demands of corporations to have total control over the legislation of our country. This is something that has begun in the 1930s and has continued to the Citizens United case that sealed the deal.

    It would nearly never be in the interest of any corporation to acknowledge climate change, as they are only interested in pure profit as their motive regardless of the impact on the citizens.

  14. Brooks Bridges says:

    I think the popular slogan: “I’ll believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one” is actually profound. Neither can you put them in jail. And assigning blame to individuals controlling a corporation is virtually impossible. You can only fine them which they consider merely a cost of doing business.

    It would seem this is a crucial difference between a person and a corporation. But I’m not a lawyer.

    Thank you Bernie Sanders

  15. RH factor says:

    No more will I ever think that climate skeptics are really climate skeptics. They are simply gate keepers to a dysfunctional system and ideology of an “unsustainable planet Earth” that has not a damn thing to do with science, but everything to do with a political conservatives nightmare of how we are to deal with the up and coming catastrophe. Naomi Klein has a great article on this that everyone should read.

    It is all about our unsustainable economic system that benefits fewer and fewer, promotes faster and faster use of natural resources to benefit the 1% and is really a left-right paradigm which threatens about 10% of all wealthy, older white men promulgated by intense fossil fuel think tank propaganda like the Heartland Institute of Chicago. Denial is not merely of human caused climate change but more all about their particular politics and governmental systems that will be destroyed if and when we actually do anything about it. Nail-head-bang! Have you every noticed how many Al Gores remarks there are in skeptic arguments. They foment with zeal because the denial is just a masquerade to the real intent and that is to slow or detour inaction. Anyone with children and concern about climate science should read and get to the real bottom of what this is all about – and of course it is far from climate science!

  16. Brian R Smith says:

    “Anyone with children and concern about climate science”…

    Personally, i don’t have the writing skill or the research chops, but I think that someone would make an effective contribution (and the NYT bestseller list) with a parental/social justice/ethical/ economic approach that focuses on children & family in the fast-warming world. Title suggestion: Play Date with the Future, a Guide to Climate Change for Parents. Coffee table size, tons of illustrations, best authors..

    As with the broader public conversation, the book would first have to convince on the science and predicted impacts. It’s then possible to look at the near & long-term effects of AGW on the lives of current & future children from every angle. Agriculture & food, water, disease, war, political & family instability, changed economic opportunity, diminishing ecosystems…

    Parents care about kids, parents are voters.

  17. Steveintulsa says:

    There is really nothing new here in the mind-set of the people who are really running the GOP – Big Money and Big Business. We’ve been on a steady march to Plutocracy since Reagan. Now they’ve managed to purchase a compliant Supreme Court (Citizens United)and so 2012 will see them bankroll a deluge of hate-filled ads attacking Progressives and Greens.

    They will use the usual fear-mongering on social issues: code-phrases for racism, God, guns, gays and abortion – the same formula. But they (the ones who run the GOP) really don’t care about any of that. It’s all about the money. If they can get your vote by telling you Jesus doesn’t like Gays and it’s OK to do what you must to keep the U Know Who’s in their place, that’s all they want. Once in office – all that crap goes out the window. They will have purchased the best politicians money can buy and they will have achieved their goal. A Plutocracy – government of, by and for the rich.

  18. Steve Carr says:

    On the metaphor of the “head in the sand:”

    Ostriches and their relatives do not stick their heads in the sand when danger threatens: you have seldom seen anything as fierce as a mother ostrich defending her eggs, and the spurs on the hind feet can inflict lethal wounds.

    In contrast, Republican / Tea Party legislators and other denialists indeed have their heads stuck in the dark, but not in the sand.