According to disclosures released earlier this month, oil and natural gas interests are pumping money into lobbying firms to influence climate change legislation at a furious pace. With $82.2 million spent in just the first half of 2009 — compared to $132.2 million in all of 2008 — the industry is on track to set new records.
Unfortunately, as large as this direct lobbying figure is, it represents probably a fraction of the total amount of money the oil and gas industry is pouring into the debate. Some of the money flows straight to candidates and to political action committees. Another huge, largely undisclosed portion goes to what is known as “outside lobbying” efforts — public relations and advertising firms which coordinate a pro-polluter propaganda campaign to influence public opinion. And finally much of the money goes to financing “think-tanks” to produce reports outside the realm of scientific consensus to legitimize skepticism of global warming.
The outside lobbying campaign the industry has embraced this year is the most corrosive because it is based upon deception — and increasingly, hate. Koch Industries, the oil and gas behemoth, bankrolls the astroturf groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. These groups were instrumental in orchestrating the anti-Obama tea party protests, where thousands gathered to display racist signs directed at the President, absurd calls for an impeachment, and more recently, protesters hanging Democratic leaders in effigy. In addition to the anti-Obama protests, these groups provide a useful front for industries as they hire dozens of field staff to spread misinformation about clean energy and bus people around the country to create the guise of public distrust of global warming. Koch has funneled its money not only to these astroturf efforts, but has been a prolific leader in all the aforementioned strategies that industries pursue (Charles Koch even founded the Cato Institute, a leader of global warming skepticism and has spent nearly $4 million in lobbying this year alone).
Although Koch has traditionally given mostly to Republicans, E&E; notes that it is giving increasingly to Democrats. In 2009, Koch gave about 28 percent of its contributions to Democrats, compared to about 15 percent last year:
Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR): $2,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK): $3,000 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL): $6,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX): $3,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX): $4,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Gene Green (D-TX): $3,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA): $2,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX): $1,000 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN): $6,500 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR): $2,000 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. David Scott (D-GA): $1,000 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]Rep. Henry Teague (D-NM): $1,000 [FEC, accessed 7/29/09]
In accepting dirty energy Koch money, these lawmakers are legitimizing the financiers of the anti-Obama tea party effort.