Last Friday on CNBC, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) bashed clean energy reform as a scheme to raise electricity costs and prop up Wall Street. Nelson reaffirmed his opposition to the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, legislation supported by President Obama which would establish a regulated market to cap carbon pollution. In a taped interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, the conservative Democrat argued that President Obama’s climate agenda would be costly to farmers, ranchers, store owners, manufacturers, and anyone who uses electricity:
I haven’t been able to sell that argument to my farmers and I don’t think they’re going to buy it from anybody else. I think at the end of the day, the people who turn the switch on at home are going to be disadvantaged. As you turn on the lights, the lights, the electricity is going to cost more. Store owners, the same thing. Manufacturers, the same thing. I don’t think that the farmers or the ranchers necessarily buy the argument that it’s all going to be offset. And I don’t know why we want to create a system that sustains Wall Street once again .
In reality, the legislation makes multi-billion-dollar investment in clean energy jobs (including Nebraska) and scales back the pollution that threatens American agriculture, all at a cost of a postage stamp a day.
Nelson’s “prairie populism” doesn’t extend to his opposition to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. “I don’t see creating a new agency is necessary,” he told Harwood, unless it is “scaled back or put in some other format.” When Harwood noted that Nelson is “with Wall Street on that,” Nelson offered the feeble reply, “Not for the same reason.”
Strangely, Nelson’s opposition to the president’s reform agenda precisely follows the interests of his top corporate donors. This year alone, Nelson has received $553,300 from agribusiness, $164,200 from oil and gas interests, and $140,199 from electric utilities. Nelson has even taken $31,500 from the virulently right-wing Koch Industries, the private pollution giant that has mobilized tea party opposition to climate and health care legislation. Berkshire Hathaway, whose subsidiary MidAmerican Energy is one of the nation’s largest coal-powered utilities, opposes climate legislation and has given Nelson $51,800. Coal-hauling Union Pacific is Nelson’s number-three contributor at $49,750.
|Ben Nelson’s Dirty Money|
|Oil & Gas||$164,200||Securities||$277,899|
|Electric Utilities||$140,199||Real Estate||$224,146|
|2010 cycle, Center for Responsive Politics, compiled by Center for American Progress Action Fund.|
When it comes to financial regulation, the story looks the same. Nelson has received $1,343,060 from Wall Street interests, from banks to insurers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In another remarkable coincidence, Nelson’s attacks on climate and financial reform are identical to those being offered by the right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s head, Tom Donohue, sits on the board of Union Pacific, for which he has received approximately $5 million in compensation.