Amid an unprecedented surge in mostly secret money into this year’s election campaign, a new report released yesterday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund details how 13 right-wing groups — including large secret money groups like American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and American Action Network — have spent more than $68.5 million this year on “misleading and fictitious televisions ads designed to shape midterm elections and advance their anti-clean energy reform agenda.” In addition to the anti-clean energy ads polluting our airwaves, an earlier CAPAF report outlined an astonishing $242 million in spending on lobbying by the 20 biggest oil, mining, and electric utility companies.
The New York Times reports this evening that “nearly half” of the Chamber’s $149 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. (The Chamber claims to have 300,000 members.) “Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.”
With no end in sight to such dramatic spending in order to protect polluters’ profits, a new ThinkProgress exposé published yesterday suggests that the level of coordination between secret money political groups, ultra-rich conservative donors, and polluters may be even deeper than previously thought. ThinkProgress obtained a memo detailing a secretive gathering held by the Koch brothers this past June, at which the Koch brothers plotted their 2010 election strategy with 210 attendees from the oil industry, coal companies, health insurers, banks, right-wing media (including Glenn Beck), the U.S. Chamber, and others. The June meeting was merely the latest in a series of similar gatherings held twice annually by the Kochs in order to coordinate the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts.
The list of attendees obtained by ThinkProgress shows that there is considerable overlap between the groups that have been running tens of millions in anti-clean energy ads and those who attended the Koch confab, including:
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The Chamber has run more than $3.8 million in energy-related ads in eight states, the bulk of which came after its Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Chavern attended the Koch meeting.
- American Petroleum Institute: API and a variety of Koch-funded entities teamed up for the past two summers to launch anti-clean energy tours across the country. What’s more, one of the Koch meeting’s attendees, Karen Wright of the Ariel Corporation, was a speaker at an API-Koch-backed September rally in Canton, Ohio, where she questioned the science of global warming and attacked clean energy jobs. The Koch gathering was also attended by more than a dozen figures in the oil, gas, and energy industries, including inviduals affiliated with API members Fluor Corporation, BHP Billiton (via its BHP Petroleum subsidiary), Devon Energy, True Oil, and the aforementioned Ariel Corporation.
- Americans for Prosperity: AFP, which is of course itself a front group for the Koch brothers, has run more than $1 million worth of energy ads. In addition to its inherent ties to the Kochtopus, AFP officials Jeff Crank and Phil Kerpen attended the meeting.
- Yes on 23: The ballot campaign to derail California’s clean energy law has spent more than $1 million on energy ads, after receiving a $1 million donation from a Koch subsidiary and considerable additional support from Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.
- American Action Network: The secret money group has spent a little under $175,000 on energy ads (though is flooding the airwaves with tens of millions more in other advertising) is chaired by “unethical” Nixon operative Fred Malek, who attended the Koch gathering.
- American Crossroads GPS: The Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie-fathered secret money group rents space to American Action Network and Rove and Gillespie regularly coordinate with AAN’s Malek. Crossroads GPS has spent just over half a million dollars on energy ads, but it and its sister Super PAC, American Crossroads, are expected to spend some $65 million on this year’s election.
- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity: The well-known and scandal-plagued coal industry front group has spent over $16 million on energy ads this year. Executives from two of its member companies—Alpha Coal Sales Company (a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources) and Alliance Resource Partners were in attendance at the gathering.
- Club for Growth Action: The anti-tax group has spent just over $1 million on energy ads. John Childs, who attended the meeting, donates to the Club for Growth and is on its Leadership Council.
Having spent almost $70 million on energy ads this year (and much, much more on other political attack ads), successfully derailed national climate legislation, and launched a war against the Clean Air Act, it’s clear that this secretive group of plutocrats, polluters, and other corporate special interests will have much to do discuss at their next gathering — to be held in January at a resort in sunny Palm Springs.