Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, led by hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer, has figured out a way to get corporate tax evaders to give back to the 99 percent, funding schools and green jobs. The coalition, which saved California’s climate law from a Big Oil ballot attack last year, has “filed a ballot initiative to raise $1.1 billion from out-of-state companies for schools and green building projects“:
For the first five years, the Steyer measure would raise an estimated $1.1 billion each year, with $550 million going toward retrofitting of public and commercial buildings for energy efficiency, as well as job training in clean energy technology. The remaining funds would go toward the state’s general fund, including more than $200 million for K-12 schools and community colleges.
After five years, the entire amount raised by the tax law change would go toward the state general fund budget.
“It closes an existing corporate tax loophole and uses the savings to create hundreds of thousands of construction jobs in California, all designed to jump start the economy,” Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant working on the initiative, told the Sacramento Bee.
A recent poll by the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Times shows that 64 percent of registered voters would support higher taxes for better schools.
In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) said he believes politicians in Washington need to fight the “rich people that have polluted the world” and defend climate action, as California is now doing. Schwarzenegger has joined with California’s cleantech community, the climate movement, and economic justice groups to “wipe out Proposition 23″ — the oil-funded initiative to kill the state’s landmark global warming legislation, AB 32. He believes that politicians who support our soldiers who are “risking their lives to defend this country” should “stand up against the oil companies.” Those who have instead conceded to the flood of dirty cash from polluters — at least $69.5 million in ads alone this year — are “disgusting” “wimps”:
What would help is if we are now successful in beating back the Texan oil companies, the same players that have been there for decades ruining everything. You know, trying to get rid of our light rail in 45 cities. And so now the important thing is we push back, wipe out Proposition 23. And in doing that, it will be one of the first times in a long time where oil companies — rich people that have polluted the world, who have enriched themselves in doing that — have been pushed back. And it will be that momentum.
We need to go to Washington and say, “Look what happened. You, because oil companies have spent money against you, they have threatened you, you backed off the energy policy and the environmental policy in Washington.” What wimps. No guts. I mean, here, you idolize and always celebrate the great warriors, our soldiers, our men and women who go to Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’re risking their lives to defend this country, and you’re not even willing to stand up against the oil companies? I say, “That’s disgusting.” You promised the people you’d represent them. You didn’t promise the people you’d represent the oil companies and the special interests.
Supporters of Proposition 26 — a California ballot measure that could cripple implementation of the state’s landmark climate law — are attempting to distance themselves from the unpopular effort to block the legislation. California oil companies and the Chamber of Commerce, who have sat out of the Proposition 23 fight to suspend AB32, have been quietly funneling millions of dollars to support Prop 26, which would “require a two-thirds vote of the state legislature anytime a government agency tries to assess a fee on a company that is not then used to regulate that entity”:
Unlike Prop 23, which has seen many of the big donors sit out, Prop 26 has received multimillion-dollar contributions from the likes of the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron Corp., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. Also contributing are ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum, according to data available through the California Secretary of State.
The California Chamber of Commerce has pumped at least $3.3 million into Prop 26, and California’s Chevron has spent $2.5 million.
The language of Prop 26 would open the implementation of AB32 to new avenues of legal challenges and obstruction based on a “hidden taxes” argument, and is a fall-back defense for opponents of clean energy if Prop 23 fails. The oil-fueled Tea Party effort to kill California’s climate law is foundering, as the state’s voters turn against the idea that pollution is good business. A new poll finds that support for Prop 23, which would suspend the clean energy law AB32, has collapsed, despite the millions of dollars pumped into the state by Midwest oil companies Tesoro, Valero, and Koch Industries, and the AstroTurf efforts of Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.
“Rules under the global warming law, which would require companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, take effect in January and could be vulnerable to legislative gridlock over fees” if Prop 26 passes, the Los Angeles Times explains.
“Prop. 26 would eviscerate the funding of all air- and water-pollution programs, even oil-spill cleanup,” Warner Chabot, chief executive of the California League of Conservation Voters, told the Times.
“If 26 passes, it is a Christmas present to the oil industry, the tobacco industry and every other polluting industry. The cost of regulation will shift from the industry to taxpayers.”
On Saturday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) held a large “Victory Rally,” which ThinkProgress attended, just outside Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the highlight of event, while RNC Chairman Michael Steele, several GOP congressmen, and right-wing media tycoon Andrew Breitbart also gave speeches to the excited, mostly-elderly crowd in a hotel ballroom. Notably absent were Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, California’s GOP Senate and governor nominees.
But curiously present was the conservative “grassroots” astroturfing outfit Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which held a “No Jobs Fair” to encourage people to vote yes on Proposition 23, a referendum on the ballot this year that would essentially scrap California’s landmark global warming law. Interestingly, AFP appeared to be the only group aside from the RNC and candidates’ campaigns with any major presence at the event, entirely occupying a large room across the hallway from the rally in the Anaheim Marriott. The only other room being employed, aside from those for the rally itself and AFP, was a small space adjacent where attendees could register to volunteer for GOP campaigns.
Because federal election law would prohibit groups like AFP from coordinating with the RNC, AFP California Communications Director Meridith Turney told ThinkProgress that the two groups did not coordinate. But, she added, AFP had to “ask for their permission to use the room” and paid the RNC for its use. Watch a compliation of AFP’s fair, and ThinkProgress’ interview with Turney and AFP California Chairman David Spady:
Turney couldn’t really explain why, of all the countless ballot initiatives across the country — California alone has 10 — her group had invested so heavily in Prop. 23. But AFP and the Yes on 23 campaign are a natural fit. The campaign pushing Prop. 23 portrays itself as a broad coalition of Californians concerned about jobs, but it is in fact funded almost exclusively by a small handful of out-of-state oil companies concerned about their bottom line if the state’s global warming law is allowed to be fully implemented. Texas-based Valero and Tesoro, along with Kansas-based Koch Industries alone have provided about 80 percent of the financial backing.
Koch, the country’s second largest privately held company, is owned and operated by brothers Charles and David Koch. Coincidentally, David Koch is the chairman of AFP. In corporate documents, Koch Industries has explicitly stated that California’s global warming law would hurt profits and “be very bad news for our industry.” With the AFP fair, and countless other events, the Kochs seem to be using the astroturfing arm they founded and fund to defend the profits of the corporation they own, all the while disguising their effort as an altruistic “jobs initiative” for average Californians.
This is typical of AFP, which has played a central rolein incubating the tea party movement to drum up populist support as a smokescreen to push their self-serving interests. The Koch brothers have repeatedly tried to distance themselves from the tea party movement to protect its guise of independence, but even AFP’s own Meridith Turney has touted her organization’s and David Koch’s involvement in the movement. Last year at a national AFP meeting led by Koch, she proudly told him AFP California “helped organize huge tea parties all throughout the state,” including “one of the largest tea parties in the country.” Recently released video even shows David Koch touting his role in supporting AFP and the tea party movement. At the fair Saturday, AFP offered free cocktails to anyone who enlisted in the effort to push the dirty energy referendum that will preserve their profits.
What was unusual about AFP’s fair Saturday was the fact that it occurred during an official RNC event, underscoring the growing nexus between the Republican establishment, the tea party movement, and the secretive corporate backers that bankroll both.
Notably, when asked by ThinkProgress whether their organization would join increasing calls for electoral transparency by disclosing its donors, both Turney and Spady dismissed the idea, even if progressive groups like MoveOn.org were also required to disclose. In defending their secretive donors, Spady trotted out the familiar excuse employed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others that their backers would be subject to “retribution” of some kind if their contributions were made public. He also said he supports unlimited donations to individual candidates.
This is the last of a four-part Wonk Room series examining the implications for climate and clean energy policy of the 2010 gubernatorial races. Read Part One, on heartland states, Part Two, on Tea Party candidates, Part Three, on Northeast races, or view the full governor-race compilation.
The Western Climate Initiative — a regional cap-and-trade compact between California, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Montana and four Canadian provinces — was established in 2007 and scheduled to go into effect in 2012. There are governors’ races in all the states except Montana and Washington. Republican governors in Arizona and Utah — who are cruising to re-election this fall — have already worked to scuttle their involvement. California’s contribution, the legislation known as AB 32, is under threat both from the Proposition 23 ballot initiative and from Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. The future of the compact rides on the governors’ races this November in California, New Mexico, and Oregon:
Jan Brewer, who assumed the governorship when Democrat Janet Napolitano was chosen as Secreatary of Health and Human Services, officially recognizes the threat of global warming pollution but has pulled Arizona out of any effort to cap its pollution. In her executive order in February 2010 that announced Arizona would not participate in the Western Climate Initiative’s regional cap-and-trade program, Brewer admitted:
Arizona is a growing state whose greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been projected to rise, based on historical trends, as Arizona will experience population and economic growth in the future. [Executive Order 2010-06, 2/2/10]
The executive order also ordered the state to “review its adoption of the California Clean Cars Program, in light of national vehicle standards coming into place.” However, Brewer still wants the state to participate in the regional compact to “have a seat at the table” on climate issues.
Brewer’s opponent, Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, is much more concerned about the threat global warming poses to Arizona. Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision compelling the EPA to act on global warming pollution and the 2007 IPPC climate report, Goddard wrote that “it is abundantly clear that if more steps are not taken soon to respond to global climate change, Arizona will be among the places paying the biggest price.” In 2009, Goddard defended “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to grant states the right to regulate global warming pollution from automobiles.”
ThinkProgress filed this report from Sacramento, CA.
On Election Day, California voters will be asked to consider a ballot measure that would essentially scrap the state’s landmark clean energy legislation, passed with broad bipartisan support in 2006, which has helped the state create thousands of green jobs and become a global leader in green technology. The campaign behind the measure, known as Prop. 23, has been funded almost entirely by Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro, Ohio-based Marathon energy, and Kansas-based Koch Industries, owned by right-wing megafunders Charles and David Koch.
Last month, the state’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger blasted these out-of-state companies for meddling in California’s election, saying their involvement is motivated purely by “self-serving greed.” “Does anyone really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect our jobs?” Schwarzenegger said, noting that proponents of the proposition say it will help create jobs.
Today, ThinkProgress attended a tea party rally in support of Prop. 23 outside the California Environmental Protection Agency in downtown Sacramento. The event was organized by the conservative anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a key player in the Yes on 23 campaign, along with the Northern California Tea Party Patriots, and the California Dump Truck Owners Association. When asked by ThinkProgress about the out-of-state oil funding, representatives from each organizations didn’t deny it — in fact they were very grateful for the help:
– President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association Jon Coupal, who spoke at the press conference: “Yes, do some people in the petroleum industry support us? You bet! … And we’re very thankful for their support”
–California Dump Truck Owners Association’s Betty Plowman, who also spoke at the event: “We’re broke” and need financial support, she said, so “thank God they came in.”
–NorCal Tea Party Patriots Campaign Coordinator Steve Cavolt: “Sure” he’s grateful, he said. “What difference does it make whether its coming from wherever if they do business in this state? Of course.” He also said that it’s “already been proven that that global warming is a hoax. It’s a scam.”
Watch a compilation of the protestors marching, Coupal, and Cavolt (Plowman asked not to be filmed):
Everyone ThinkProgress spoke with at the event noted that the Yes on 23 campaign is backed by a “broad coalition” of businesses, manufacturers, and taxpayer groups beyond the oil companies. While several dozen California organizations and individuals have indeed signed onto the campaign, their financial contributions are dwarfed by that of the out-of-state oil companies.
As the Los Angeles Times noted yesterday, “Valero is by far the largest contributor — giving more than three times as much as the next biggest funder, San Antonio-based Tesoro Inc. The third biggest contributor is Flint Hills Resources, a subsidiary of the Kansas-based Koch Industries.” As of last month, 97 percent of the Yes campaign’s funding came from oil, while 89 percent came from out of state. Valero, Tesoro and Koch alone accounted for 80 percent of total contributions.
“I’ve never been to a tea-party event,” pollution billionaire David Koch told New York magazine in July, 2010. “No one representing the tea party has ever even approached me.” Koch’s corporate public relations officials declared in April 2010 that “no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.”
However, in October, 2009, Koch was applauding his army of Astroturf tea party organizers. Koch, who founded Americans for Prosperity with his brother David, was the guest of honor at AFP’s annual Defending the American Dream Summit. Independent filmmaker Taki Oldham filmed Koch beaming as organizers who run AFP’s 25 state-level outposts touted their success in mobilizing dozens of tea party events across the nation:
AFP CALIFORNIA: We helped organize huge tea parties all throughout the state. And on April 15, Tax Day, over 10,000 Californians joined us on the steps of the state capital and we held one of the largest tea parties in the country. . . .
AFP MICHIGAN: … We have held the largest tea party in the state …
AFP GEORGIA: … the largest Tax Day tea party in the nation on April 15 …
AFP OKLAHOMA: … we’ve held 29 tea parties …
AFP MARYLAND: … we organized dozens of tea parties …
DAVID KOCH: This is a phenomenal success in my judgment. Eight hundred thousand activists from nothing five years ago. This is a remarkable achievement. And we’re being effective in so many ways.
Oldham’s documentary, (Astro)Turf Wars, reveals that David Koch’s tea party army has demonized health care and climate legislation by stoking false fears of their costs and lying about the science of global warming. AFP, the Guardian explains, “has spun off other organizations such as November is Coming, Hands Off My Healthcare, and the Institute of Liberty, which are buying up television ads and holding rallies across the country in an attempt to defeat Democrats.”
(Astro)Turf Wars explains in detail how the Koch brothers and other right-wing plutocrats have succeeded in mobilizing millions of grassroots conservatives to support their pollution-for-profit agenda, at the price of the nation’s health and security.
Our guest bloggers are Center for American Progress Senior Vice President Araceli Ruano and Green Opportunity Research Associate Jorge Madrid.
The forces behind Proposition 23 are hiding a lot of dirty secrets. Not only are they attempting to effectively repeal California’s iconic environmental protection laws, they are also funding a national campaign against immigrants, and collaborating with anti-immigrant extremist groups:
Assemblyman Dan Logue (R- Chico) – The California lawmaker who introduced Prop 23 and called climate change “a scam” is also an infamous anti-immigrant voice. Last year, he paid large sums of campaign money to Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, an extremist anti-immigrant vigilante group. Also, while campaigning for his assembly seat, he regularly made appearances with Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps – whose hallmark speeches included racially charged rants against immigrants.
It also should be noted that Mr. Logue is in league with the Texas oil companies who are sponsoring prop 23. For the last several years, the Assemblyman accepted large donations from Valero, even though the oil company has no operations in Logue’s northern California district.
Prop 23 adds insult to injury. Immigrant groups, especially Latinos, are disproportionately harmed by greenhouse gases and toxic emissions. One in six Latinos has been diagnosed with asthma in California, and Latinos also comprise 60 percent of the people living within a half mile of the top 100 emitters of toxic pollutants in places like Los Angeles County. Add to this the increased cases of cancer, birth defects, and hospitalizations – dirty energy is a death trap for these communities.
When we connect the dots, it becomes clear that supporters of Prop 23 care little, if at all, for the environment, immigrants and Latino communities. Even worse, it appears these groups feel they can use immigrants, particularly Latinos, as their political ‘whipping boy’ in order to garner votes from conservatives and opponents of reasonable immigration reform.
This strategy should be great cause for concern. In the fight against climate change, Latinos and immigrants are a strong ally. Latinos make up about 20 percent of the electorate and 37 percent of the population in California. Polls have shown that Latino voters don’t accept the false choice between the economy and the environment. Latinos are the most likely racial/ethnic group to consider regional air pollution a big problem, as well as the most likely group that considers the effects of global warming is already happening.
The supporters of Prop 23 and their dirty money are attacking immigrants and Latinos from all directions — they should be exposed for their unconscionable agendas.
Well before the conglomerate Koch Industries plunged $1 million into Prop 23 — a ballot initiative in California to essentially repeal the state’s revolutionary clean energy climate change law AB 32 — the Wonk Room revealed that front groups controlled by Koch had been working to promote Prop 23. Americans for Prosperity, the front group founded and financed by Koch Industries’ executive David Koch, had organized Tea Party rallies in favor of Prop 23 and produced online ads distorting California clean energy. The Pacific Research Foundation, also funded by Koch-run foundations, produced junk studies promoting Prop 23.
Today, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Van Jones spoke to ThinkProgress about Prop 23 and the oil interests polluting the energy debate. Asked about the influence of Koch in supporting Prop 23, Jones slammed the company for “trying to shove” its politics on California. To respond to the Tea Parties and other radical right groups, many of which have been organized by Koch and big business fronts, Jones encouraged the public to “stay involved and to get involved,” because otherwise the people “screaming and yelling at these Tea Party events” will win control of government. He added, “I don’t think you want the Tea Party running your community, running your family, running your government”:
JONES: Koch Industries has promoted awful environmental policies. They’ve been literally poisoning rivers, poisoning streams, and making money off of that. They’ve promoted now this awful economic idea that if you grow new industries in California you somehow hurt the economy. That’s nuts. And now they’re promoting bad politics by backing I think extreme movements in the United States. Here you have a bad actor, three strikes and you’re out. They’re bad on the environment in terms of their practices, they’re bad in terms of their economic philosophy they’re trying to shove down the throats of California, and they’re bad in their politics in terms of their supporting extreme political ideas in America. I think if you start connecting those dots, California voters are very sophisticated, and I don’t think any of them think the people who run Koch Industries wake up in the morning thinking how can Californians have better jobs? [...]
JONES: If you think things are bad now, what will happen when the people are screaming and yelling at these Tea Party events are actually in charge of your government, and in charge of your life, and in charge of your kids’ future? That is, maybe you have some hope fatigue, but you got a lot of reason to be fearful enough I think to stay involved and to get involved. I don’t think you want the Tea Party running your community, running your family, running your government.
As Jones states, Koch is not only corrosive to our politics because of its funding of angry and paranoid Tea Parties, but the company also manipulates the political system to pad its profits. For instance, Business Week reported on how Koch Industries used then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) to try to suppress an investigation into Koch Industries’ massive theft of oil from Indian reservations. In another case, Koch Industries faced a $55 million civil suit for causing more than 300 oil spills over a five-year period. Again, Dole, a major recipient of Koch money and support, sponsored a bill that would allow Koch to easily defend itself from the oil spill charges. After Koch helped to elect George Bush in 2000, the Bush Justice Department abruptly settled a criminal case with $350 million in penalties Koch faced for discharging toxic chemicals from a refinery in Corpus Cristi, Texas.
Why is the “Kochtopus” flexing its muscle of campaign donations, Tea Parties, and front groups to enact the clean energy-killing Prop 23? In its corporate newsletter, Koch Industries explicitly states that the low carbon fuel standard California is set to adopt to comply with AB 32 carbon emissions regulations would harm its bottom line because Koch imports mostly high-carbon crude oil from Canada. Another Koch newsletter warns that its Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota specializing in high-carbon Canadian crude would become much less profitable for Koch if low fuel standards mirroring AB 32 are adopted around the country.
In an attempt to ensure that California has neither an old-energy nor new-energy economy, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has announced her opposition to Proposition 23, the oil-fueled campaign to suspend California’s landmark climate law AB 32. Whitman also reiterated her call for a one-year moratorium of AB 32, attacking it as a “job-killer”:
While Proposition 23 does address the job killing aspects of AB 32, it does not offer a sensible balance between our vital need for good jobs and the desire of all Californians to protect our precious environment. It is too simple of a solution for a complex problem. I believe that my plan to fix AB 32 strikes the right balance for California. I will vote “no” on Proposition 23.
Whitman’s “plan to fix AB 32″ is to delay its implementation and reconfigure its key provisions as the world burns, putting years of private investment and planning into disarray.
Whitman also implied that green jobs come at the expense of “the other 97% of jobs”:
This is not an easy issue. While green jobs are an important and growing part of our state’s economic future, we cannot forget the other 97% of jobs in key sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and energy. We compete for jobs with many other states and our environmental policy must reflect that reality.
In fact, the provisions of AB 32 make it possible for California’s jobs “in key sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and energy” to become green jobs, as they become more efficient, high-tech, and sustainable. Whitman’s call to suspend AB 32 would scrap the investments that would take those sectors into the twenty-first century — which is why California’s high-tech community so strongly opposes Proposition 23. In a odd coincidence, 97 percent of the funding for Proposition 23 comes from oil companies, most from three outside giants, Valero, Tesoro, and Koch Industries.
Jerry Brown campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford told the Los Angeles Times that Whitman’s position on the measure was “two empty gestures in one press release” and called it an example of “transparent politicking.”
“Throughout this campaign, she’s tried to have everything every way,” Clifford said. “Nobody has any idea what a Meg Whitman governorship would mean.”