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Disgraced lobbyist joins anti-Green New Deal effort as opposition to resolution takes shape

Jack Abramoff is back and he doesn't like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's ambitious plans to combat climate change.

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff participates in a discussion at Public Citizen February 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff participates in a discussion at Public Citizen February 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Opposition to the Green New Deal is swiftly taking shape, with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff now attached to an effort targeting progressive initiatives including the sweeping resolution to combat climate change.

A new political action committee (PAC) was launched on Feb. 7 — the Protect American Values PAC — according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. The New Jersey-based PAC was created by Elizabeth Curtis, whose LinkedIn describes her as a “political compliance associate.” Abramoff is listed as the PAC’s “honorary chairman.”

According to the PAC’s FEC description, it “supports/opposes more than one Federal candidate.” And the PAC has already begun fundraising via emails to supporters.

The effort to fight the Green New Deal through a serious PAC fundraising push comes as conservatives mobilize against the resolution. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has moved to call for a vote on the proposal in an effort to weaken Democratic support.

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And Abramoff is wasting no time sending emails attacking the Green New Deal and other progressive agenda items on behalf of the PAC.

“These socialists are so confused, and their messaging is getting worse by the minute. They seem to think that cows and airplanes are a threat to our future,” wrote Abramoff in a Feb. 18 email to subscribers, first shared by E&E. He went on to argue that the “radical Left” is working to “force their Green New Deal down your throat” in addition to other proposals, like a 70 percent marginal tax rate.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t even in diapers when I started fighting the Left, and I’m about to teach her and her cronies a few things they are going to wish they never learned,” Abramoff wrote in his Monday email.

In reaction to the email, Green New Deal supporter Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) pointed to the lobbyist’s scandal-ridden past in a tweet on Tuesday. “If you are undecided on the Green New Deal one data point is that Jack Abramoff has started a super PAC against it,” Schatz wrote.

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Indeed, the move marks a dramatic return to the public eye for Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to charges including fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion over a decade ago. A lifelong conservative who built strong ties with Republican lawmakers and other officials, Abramoff infamously over-billed Native American tribes for casino lobbying, in addition to conspiring to bribe public officials, actions that ultimately led to his imprisonment.

After a six-year prison sentence, Abramoff railed against lobbying and began working as an accountant at a kosher pizza restaurant — a move he touted as an effort to distance himself from money and politics.

But he soon returned to lobbying, working to arrange meetings between President Donald Trump and international officials in countries like the Republic of Congo. He has also been linked to alleged Russian spy Maria Butina — her partner, Paul Erickson, is a long-time friend and business partner of Abramoff.

And while Abramoff’s Twitter still describes him as a “former” lobbyist, he is currently registered as one — and now appears to be turning his attention to fighting efforts like the Green New Deal.

Daniel Auble, a senior researcher with the nonpartisan nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, told ThinkProgress on Wednesday that Abramoff’s history is likely to attract heightened scrutiny.

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“Obviously, his past political fundraising was not just problematic but criminal so we will keep a close eye on whatever he does,” Auble said. “Coordination is always a concern with super PACs meaning any return to lobbying activities would warrant even further scrutiny.”

Introduced two weeks ago by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the Green New Deal resolution serves as a blueprint for what many climate activists hope will be a host of policy efforts to massively decarbonize the U.S. economy within a decade.

The resolution is backed by progressive groups like the youth-led nonprofit Sunrise Movement, who say the proposal is currently the only roadmap being offered to help the United States avoid a dangerous threshold of global warming. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in 2018 that the world only had about 12 years left before reaching that tipping-point.

When it was a progressive talking point during the 2018 primaries, conservative figures largely ignored the Green New Deal. But since the resolution’s introduction, opposition has grown rapidly.

Much of that hinges on the bungled release of a “frequently asked questions” document circulated by Ocasio-Cortez’s office. The fact sheet called for dramatically reducing air flights and scaling back “farting cows” in agriculture — both significant sources of greenhouse gases.

While Ocasio-Cortez’s office has downplayed the document and removed it from the representative’s website, Green New Deal opponents seized on its contents immediately, with even Trump tweeting that the proposal would “permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas & the Military[.]”

And now Abramoff’s email on behalf of Protect American Values — entitled “More cows, less Democrats” — also draws on the contents of this document.

It’s unclear whether labeling the Green New Deal a “socialist” effort aimed at hurting farmers and prioritizing train travel will prove a winning strategy. But it is proving an easy messaging tactic. A number of Republican lawmakers have already seized on the furor over the fact sheet and are working to make the Green New Deal a losing issue for supporters.

Part of this effort came last week when McConnell called for a vote in the Senate on the Green New Deal resolution. The move is widely understood to be intended to force Democrats into an uncomfortable position of clarifying their support for the climate initiative. Support for the Green New Deal has ranged among Democrats, with some enthusiastically backing it and others expressing more tepid backing.

A number of 2020 presidential contenders, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Kamala Harris (D-CA), co-sponsored the resolution but its specifics remain vague as does what support could ultimately entail. Some Democrats have moreover expressed skepticism about components of the resolution, something McConnell wants to make clear with a Senate vote, one that could fracture the opposition party in the Republican-controlled chamber.

While only 12 senators have endorsed the Green New Deal, Democrats have largely united in critiquing McConnell’s vote effort and slamming the majority leader’s threats. And Ocasio-Cortez has dismissed it as an attempt to “stop this freight train of momentum” powering the Green New Deal.