January 21st marks the two year anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, the landmark Supreme Court case that removed limits on election spending by corporations and other moneyed interests, overthrowing 100 years of election laws.
An example of the kind of propaganda corporate polluters are flooding the airwaves with - thanks to Citizens United – is the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) new election cycle ad campaign, released last week.
The new advertising campaign is an attempt to hoodwink Americans into supporting Big Oil’s political agenda by faking grassroots support for the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and offshore arctic drilling. Now that the Supreme Court has decided API can use Big Oil’s millions to influence elections, API, the Chamber of Commerce, and other industry fronts can relentlessly attack candidates that don't support the fossil fuel industry’s political agenda.
Greenpeace caught API in the act of creating this Astroturf campaign, when activists responded to a leaked casting email that invited “real people not actors” to share their views on energy. When the activists showed up to the shoot, API tried to use them as puppets, feeding them lines and strictly controlling what people could say on camera.
Greenpeace created a parody commercial and website called "vote 4 energy" to point out API’s manipulations, but without millions of dollars of oil and gas money for ad buys, API’s lies will likely reach many more people.
Therein lies the fundamental injustice of the Citizens United decision, it increases the power of the richest sectors of society, allowing those with the most money to have the biggest voice in elections. Because of Citizens United, Groups like API now wield advertising dollars like a cudgel, threatening politicians with unrelenting attack ads if politicians dare to deviate from corporate approved policies. API’s president Jack Gerard admitted this strategy when he unveiled his ad campaign, promising “Huge political consequences” if President Obama does not approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
It is up to the people of America to beat back this corporate takeover of our government. As the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision approaches, a growing and diverse movement has been building to pursue the only remedy that can overcome the entrenched Supreme Court majority’s distortion of the First Amendment: amending the Constitution to reverse Citizens United and broadly ensure free and fair elections, uncorrupted by excessive corporate influence.
We need to tell corporate manipulators this is not over. Demand your right to democracy for the people and by the people by joining one of the many actions taking place to mark the anniversary of Citizens United, starting January 19. The People for the American Way have set up a website that can connect you to an event in your area. There are hundreds of events across the nation so get involved!!
Those interested in how pro-corporate forces have plotted to hijack democracy for more than three decades, check out the report on the Powell Memorandum, a blueprint for corporate takeover of democracy written by former Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell.
After years of delay, the Environmental Protection Agency is finally issuing safeguards that will protect Americans by reducing the amount of mercury pollution and other poisons emitted by coal plants around the country. It's good news for mothers, children, communities near dirty coal plants, people who eat fish - pretty much everyone, actually, so it's no surprise that Americansoverwhelmingly support rules to reduce mercury pollution from power plants. So who isn't pleased? Well, lobbyists for the dirtiest utilities like Southern Company seem pretty down about it - Scott Segal, for example, called the upcoming rule "unfortunate."
You might remember Scott Segal from his appearance on The Daily Show, in a bit about how lobbyists kill legislation. Mr. Segal works for K Street lobby firm Bracewell & Giuliani, where herepresents clients like Southern Company, Arch Coal, and Duke Energy, along with his colleagueJeffrey Holmstead. (Holmstead has worked for years against meaningful mercury protections, as a top George W. Bush EPA official and as an industry lobbyist - read our new report:Jeffrey Holmstead: the Coal Industry's Mercury Lobbyist for much more). They’ve got the tough job of trying to weaken and delay these popular, life-saving rules so their clients can keep dumping mercury into our air and water without restriction.
But Mr. Segal is just a lobbyist, so we should ask which corporate interests he represents when he calls "unfortunate" a rule that will save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of illnesses every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As it turns out, it's really just a few companies that have pushed hard against the mercury safeguards. Most utility companies have prepared for this long-delayed rule, and oneanalysis found that "Companies representing half of the nation’s coal-fired generating capacity—eleven out of the top 15 largest coal fleet owners in the U.S.—have indicated that they are well positioned to comply with EPA’s clean air rules because of early investments in their generating fleets."
To help hide this, Mr. Segal often represents himself as the director of a coal industry front group called the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council." For example, a few weeks ago Mr. Segal, writing as the director of ERCC, sent aletter requesting a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget as it was analyzing the Mercury Rule. And when Mr. Segal testified before Congress against the Mercury Rule in April 2011, he also used his preferred title of director of ERCC, instead of, say, a lobbyist for Southern Company.
But what exactly is this "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council" that has spent much of the last year trying to weaken and delay these badly needed mercury safeguards? ERCC'swebsite describes the group as "a broad-based coalition of energy companies committed to the continued viability of diverse, affordable and reliable electric power supply in the United States." But nowhere does its website list the member companies in ERCC's supposedly "broad-based coalition." When challenged in a debate on the Mercury Rule by John Walke of NRDC to disclose ERCC's full list of member companies, Mr. Segal declined after naming just four companies: Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and EFH (Energy Future Holdings, which owns Luminant).
It's no surprise for Southern Company and EFH - those companies have openly attacked the Mercury Rule, and were the second and third worst mercury polluters in 2010, after American Electric Power. But what about Duke Energy? Has it been using this front group to lobby against the Mercury Rule? After we sent Duke CEO Jim Rogers a letter asking if Duke was a member of ERCC, and whether the company supported the ERCC's efforts to delay and weaken the Mercury Rule, a spokesman for the company told theCharlotte Business Journal that Duke is a member of ERCC, “But, as with many organizations we are affiliated with, we don’t agree with them on every issue.”
So are ERCC's attacks on the Mercury Rule too extreme even for its coal industry member companies? Or is Duke Energy backing those attacks after all, and misleading the public about what exactly it has been doing with the $1.6 million it spent on lobbying in just the last three month period? Well as it turns out, Mr. Segal got that meeting he requested with the Office of Management and Budget. According to White House records, he was there withJeffrey Holmstead, three executives from Southern Company - and Duke Energy's Vice President for Federal Affairs. It seems like Duke Energy has some explaining to do.
Many people have given up hope that President Obama will take the lead on climate. This is a massive disappointment, given the hope we all had after the departure of Bush and his denial of climate change, and Obama's 2008 campaign promise to take action. Apparently, Obama was just trying to woo us.
Here at the Durban climate talks, President Obama's team has begun actively denying the urgency of global climate change. This is just another form of climate denialism.
Here's an excerpt from an article in today's ECO, the conference daily paper published by Climate Action International, the alliance of over 700 organizations including Greenpeace:
“...science says climate change is happening due to human activity, and it’s urgent. The US received a Fossil of the Day award for statements about the science of climate change by Jonathan Pershing, the US Deputy Special Envoy, in his first press briefing here in Durban. Pershing is a scientist himself, and was involved with the IPCC, but he implausibly said current collective mitigation targets are sufficient to avoid going over 2 degrees. His overall message was that the US stands on its position that avoiding runaway global warming is not urgent enough to expend much political capital on commitments in the UNFCCC.
...By saying the US is only really concerned with post-2020 commitments, the Obama Administration’s negotiators are saying their boss doesn’t need to deal with this issue, since Obama won’t be in office after 2016 (assuming he wins another 4 year term). In his 2008 campaign, however, President Obama promised to be a leader on global climate disruption. But expectations have now fallen so low that all we can ask is for the US to agree some very reasonable steps forward in the negotiations – for example, on a mandate to package commitments into a legally binding agreement by 2015. That would give the world four more years, in addition to the Bali Action Plan, agreed by the Bush administration, which gave the world two. The climate may not wait. The world certainly cannot be dragged down by another US administration in denial.”
When the Obama administration says the President is making climate change a priority, it is a claim with no foundation. The perfect example is the US pollution target, which is less than half target agreed by the US in Kyoto. By acting in 2009 as if the US had never signed onto anything, Obama followed the lead of President Bush who was probably the first leader in modern history to un-sign a treaty.
More importantly, the US climate pollution target is so weak that it may already have been accomplished without any new national policies aimed at reducing climate pollution. Adding up reduced CO2 from new car efficiency rules, plus closing defunct coal-fired power plants may be enough as even analysts from Shell Oil argue can happen with a recovery from the recession. Although it's worth mentioning that the recession resulted in a reduction of emissions almost equal to half of the Obama administration goal.
Mitt Romney many believe to be Obama's likeliest contender in next year's bid for the presidency. People are recalling that Romney has a record of crafting, signing into law, and implementing climate policy. And one of the best Obama appointees, who is in fact in charge of developing EPA greenhouse gas policy, previously worked in Romney's government. Despite the crazy rhetoric by Republican candidates on climate, Obama will have a very hard time arguing he has a better record than Romney.
This guest post was written by Brendan DeMelle, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.
Climate skeptics are once again proven wrong, and this time even Koch money can't skew the facts.
Have you heard the one from climate deniers that the “Urban Heat Island” effect has ruined all the weather stations and made the data they collect completely useless? The deniers claim any warming trend seen from these temperature recordings is from concrete buildings and asphalt roads – and that climate change is therefore a myth?
That would be false. Says whom, you ask? How about a new Koch-funded scientific study?
Many global warming skeptics have long claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has skewed temperature measurements indicating that global warming is happening. The skeptics argue that efforts to curb global warming pollution are therefore unnecessary, citing their pet theory that surface temperature stations were swallowed by, or moved closer to, cities, thus skewing surface temperature records on the whole.
The BEST papers – which still must go through rigorous peer review – confirm what climate scientists have correctly stated previously, demonstrating without doubt that “very rural” temperature stations miles from any new “UHI” towns or cities have also recorded warming at 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last century.
To put it plainly, even the Kochtopus denial machine will have a tough time trying to twist this Koch-funded project’s findings. It looks like the Kochs backed the wrong horse here - one wonders whether they thought Hadley CRU would be proven wrong?
Notable skeptics like Anthony Watts have long pushed this bogus UHI theory. In fact, Watts admits that he basically became a climate skeptic when he heard that urban heat islands (UHI) had distorted the global temperature record. In November, Watts wrote on Watts Up With That: “UHI is easily observable. I’ve been telling readers about UHI since this blog started…”
Mr. Watts isn’t quitting his fight just yet, complaining yesterday on his blog that the BEST studies must first clear peer review. Fair enough, sir, but in the meantime you might want to sharpen your flatware in preparation to dine on crow.
After all, Watts said in March: “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.”
This is the same Anthony Watts who published a paper with Joe D’Aleo titled “Is The US Temperature Record Reliable?” two full years before he published the associated peer reviewed paper. Oh, and the peer-reviewed paper came to the opposite conclusion of the Heartland paper.
And the BEST papers? Pre-release versions of the papers they’ll be submitting shortly for peer-review at real scientific journals. The Watts/D’Aleo paper? Published by the climate disruption denying Heartland Institute.
Watts has so much invested in the US surface station temperature record being wrong that he can’t seem to admit that his own research proved it was right, never mind accept that anyone else’s analyses might show the same.
Watts is by no means alone in embracing the Urban Heat Island theory to downplay global warming science. John Christy, Roy Spencer, S. Fred Singer, Tim Ball and his “Friends of Science”, Ross McKitrick and Pat Michaels - to name a few - have all been proponents of the Urban Heat Island theory to explain away global warming data. Many of them excitedly praised the BEST study when it was first announced, apparently confident that it would confirm their theory. They should also sharpen their flatware for a feast of crow and humble pie.
It now appears that the BEST effort confirms again what the, ahem, best climate scientists have told us repeatedly in the peer-reviewed science published on this issue over the past 20 years - that UHI is negligible and certainly doesn’t skew the conclusion that surface temperatures are rising. In fact, a 2010 study indicated that stations identified by Watts and others as exaggerating warming actually indicated a cooling trend on closer examination. Oops.
Yes, the favorite arguments from skeptics griping about temperature station quality, selection bias and data correction all appear to be falling apart, thanks in part to $150,000 of their sugar daddy Charles Koch’s coin, no less.
Remember Climategate? Recall how Phil Jones was dragged through the mud chiefly due to the allegation that his landmark 1990 study on UHI - later cited by the International Panel on Climate Change – was allegedly plagued by flawed temperature data?
As it turns out, Jones and his colleagues at the Hadley Centre, who compile the HadCRU global temperature record are enjoying yet another exoneration today, since BEST data confirms the premise that the Urban Heat Island effect is not responsible for the extent of recorded global temperature rises.
But there’s little cause for celebration. What the BEST papers clearly confirm (once again) is that global warming is real, and temperatures are rising quickly.
“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.
Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”
The hardened deniers will surely find something else to complain about now, as their attempts to paint man-made climate change as a myth grown increasingly desperate. But anyone who could be described as a “reasonable skeptic” must recognize this plain fact and stop misleading the public on this issue. To do otherwise is dishonest and frankly unethical.
Written by Brendan DeMelle, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.
Hillary Clinton and the State Department have the final word on whether to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, unless President Obama intervenes. The influence of tar sands industry lobbyists connected to Hillary Clinton is finally getting some media attention, but there is still more to this story.
Clinton's State Department is finally complying with a FOIA request for documents, after a lawsuit filed in May by three watchdog groups over an alleged lack of transparency regarding contacts with TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, a former staffer on Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Elliott has earned at least $310,000 as TransCanada Pipelines’ in-house lobbyist to influence Congress and several federal agencies, including the State Department, on the Keystone XL pipeline.
However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
These lobbyists are spread out over three firms, including one that was the largest single source of funds of any corporate entity to Clinton’s 2008 presidential run. Included in their midst is a lobbyist with close ties to top Obama adviser David Plouffe, and a former Koch Industries operative now lobbying for the Koch-friendly Keystone XLproject.
The presence of so many former Clinton associates on the lobbying roster for polluter clients on a high-profile controversy suggests a clash with the repeated campaign pledges of greater transparency and tougher dealings with lobbyists by Secretary Clinton’s boss, President Obama.
“This is somebody who’s been in Congress for twenty-six years, who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign, and now he tells us that he’s the one who will take on the ol' boy network,”Obama said before a crowd in Elko, Nev. "The ol’ boy network? In the McCain campaign, that’s called a staff meeting," Obama said.
TransCanada Corp's permit request for the Keystone XL network of long-distance pipes represents a clear test of those pledges of transparency and a less cozy relationship with corporate lobbyists. The proposed pipeline would shuttle what is described as the dirtiest oil on the planet – Canada’s tar sands crude – to petroleum refineries on the Gulf Coast. Ultimately, much of the oil will be shipped overseas to foreign markets, undermining claims that this project would boost U.S. energy security.
Below is a description of the influence peddling firms and lobbyists that DeSmogBlog has identified as having close connections to Hillary Clinton and President Obama that are working to convince the State Department to approve Keystone XL.
McKenna Long & Aldridge lobbies for Nexen Inc., a company with present growth strategies that include “oil sands, including our 65% operated interest in the Long Lake project.” Nexen has paid McKenna over $1.8 million since 2007 in lobbying fees. Talisman, another major energy company in Canada, has paid McKenna $90,000 over the last two years for lobbying.
Frank McKenna, the first-named principle of McKenna Long & Aldridge, served as Canadian ambassador to the U.S. from 2005-6. [Correction: Frank McKenna has no affiliation with McKenna Long & Aldridge. I regret the error.]
Gordon Giffin, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada during the Clinton administration (1997 to 2001), and was a key fundraiser and donor to Hillary Clinton’s Senate and White House campaigns. Giffin was one of 22 “Bundlers for Hillary Clinton who have registered as Federal Lobbyists” cataloged by Public Citizen. He’s also been a donor to Bill Clinton’s campaigns and the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. Giffin sits on the boards of four Canadian companies, including Canadian Natural Resources Limited, a major tar sands player.
Maryscott “Scotty” Greenwood, another McKenna lobbyist, was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as Chief of Staff to Gordon Giffin when he was U.S. ambassador to Canada. Considered by The Hill Times as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Government and Politics in 2010,” Greenwood is valued by McKenna for her ability to reach Secretary Clinton on the phone, according to a biography on the firm's principal Frank McKenna: “Because of her up attitude and the jobs she has held, [Scotty Greenwood] can get through on the phone to virtually anyone of influence within the US Democratic ranks, including the likes of U.S. secretary of the state Hillary Clinton.”
Greenwood was a member of the important Credentials Committee at the 2008 Democratic Convention - the committee appointed by Chairman Howard Dean that was responsible for deciding how to handle Hillary Clinton's delegate challenges. She was also the Executive Director of the Georgia Democratic Party, where she met Giffin.
Indeed, one of the emails obtained by FOE et al in their FOIA request shows Scotty Greenwood emailing news that "Sen Lugar calls for approval of KXL" to Gordon Giffin, Paul Elliott, Marja Verloop and an ExxonMobil lobbyist. (See pg 137 of this PDF)
David Pollak joined McKenna as a “Senior Strategic Advisor” in August 2009. Pollack served as Co-Chairman of the New York State Democratic Party from 2006 – 2008, and was a Hillary Clinton Super-Delegate.
In May 2010, McKenna Long & Aldridge hired Alex McGee, who previously worked for Koch Industries as the Director of Federal Affairs for Koch Companies Public Sector (KCPS). Prior to that, he spent five years as the Department of Energy's (DOE) Principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. McGee’s bio claims he was “a strategic player in the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.” McGee now lobbies on behalf of TransCanada.
The web of tar sands lobbyist cronies with ties to Hillary Clinton pressuring the State Department to approve Keystone XL shows that President Obama must take personal responsibility for the transparency and objectivity of this permit decision. It appears that Secretary Clinton is too compromised by this web of polluter influence peddlers from her past to say no to Keystone XL.
Saying no to this filthy tar sands pipeline is the only viable option for President Obama, who campaigned not only on a platform of strong climate action and ending our oil addiction, but also for transparency and minimizing the role of corporate lobbyists in policy decisions.
Right now, the State Department’s capitulation to lobbyists – and secrecy about Secretary Clinton’s contacts with lobbyists – stinks to high heaven, as the recently released emails demonstrate. Hopefully this amended FOIA request will compel the State Department to reveal all the facts about lobbyist influence over Hillary Clinton’s position on Keystone XL.
DeSmogBlog's Emma Pullman contributed research to this report.
** Clarification added to note that Earthjustice, which represents the environmental groups, filed the amended FOIA today on their behalf.
ThinkProgress was quick to point out the irony that one of Paul's many dirty campaign contributors, Koch Industries, was caught by the Department of Justice in 2000 after illegally releasing at least 91 metric tons of uncontrolled benzene into its liquid waste stream, and later plead guilty to falsifying documents in an effort to cover up the incident. For more, see the Justice Department's 2001 press release: "Koch Pleads Guilty to Covering Up Environmental Violations at Texas Oil Refinery." Greenpeace also has more information about Koch Industries' environmental record and how the company has avoided responsibility for preventing chemical disasters at its facilities.
Forbes' newly updated "Richest Americans" list shows that Charles and David Koch have jumped up the rich list to tie as the fourth richest American, each worth an estimated $25 billion. Demonstrating the continuing consolidation of wealth at the top, Rachel Maddow reports that as Charles and David Koch increased their net wealth by $16 billion, Koch Industries cut 13,000 jobs.
Written by Farron Cousins, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.
For years, the Republican Party in America has been on a crusade against what they call “job killing regulations.” A quick Google search for the phrase “job killing regulations” returns 368,000 results – many from official Republican Party sources and some others attempting to debunk this talking point.
While this talking point is used to berate a lot of different government protections, from checks and balances applied to Wall Street, to product safety laws, to measures safeguarding consumers from dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceuticals, and so forth.
But most often, the perjorative "job-killing regulations" talking point is used to describe the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) And it has resonated extremely well among an American public that is currently suffering from a severe lack of jobs. As of July 2011, we have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, resulting in almost 14 million Americans looking, but unable to find, a job. For a populace that desperately wants to work but is unable to do so, scapegoating “regulations” has been a very powerful and effective narrative.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, these “job killing regulations” are a myth. There is no empirical data to back up their claims, but there is a wealth of information available showing that regulations – all regulations – actually promote job growth and put Americans back to work. A new report by Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) delivers the latest blow to this popular talking point, demonstrating a direct correlation between environmental regulations and job growth. NESCAUM looked at the Northeast and found that by enacting stricter fuel economy standards and pursuing cleaner forms of energy, more Americans would be put back to work.
Gross regional product, a measure of the states’ economic output, increases by 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion.
Household disposable income increases by 1 billion to 3.3 billion.
Gasoline and diesel demand drops 12 to 29 percent.
Carbon pollution from transportation is cut by 5 to 9 percent.
And this is just for eleven states in the Northeast. A similar trend has been verified in California, where the standards set forth by NESCAUM are already in place.
But in the "Republicans Against Science" age, one study is certainly not enough to undo the damage that this “job killing regulation” GOP talking point has done to America, even when there are numerous other studies to back it up. Increased fuel economy standards already led to the creation of more than 155,000 U.S. jobs, according to the United Auto Workers union.
Last year, while Senate Democrats worked to pass sweeping environmental protection legislation, reports showed that the proposed efforts to protect the environment and invest in green technologies would have provided a boost to the economy by creating several hundred thousand much-needed jobs for out of work Americans.
But even though some of this information has been available to the public for years, many people still believe that any form of environmental protection will come at the expense of American jobs. The reason behind this mass ignorance once again lies with the GOP, which has deployed one of the most powerful echo chambers on the planet, consistently repeating the lie about “job killing regulations” over and over again. Unchallenged in their Fox News and right wing radio echo chambers, Republicans work to convince Americans that they have to choose between protecting the environment or the economy. They are aided by a network of industry front groups funded by polluting companies like ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
But it isn’t just elected GOP officials and big corporations repeating the talking point. So-called “independent” bloggers and reporters have taken up the mantle of attacking environmental protection as well. A recent piece cross-posted on BigHealthReport.com read: “Obama’s EPA Is Killing More Jobs than Economy Can Create.”
Here are a few comments from that article showing that this talking point is resonating quite well with some Americans:
August 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm
The ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION AGENCY is useless, it just makes our economy worse. Their whole existence depends on pollution and bad mouthing it.
August 27, 2011 at 10:45 am
I am always amazed at how much power the E.P.A. has gained in the U.S.A. none of these people were ever voted in yet they control every part of our lives. I think it is time for people to start looking at everything that they do and if it is even legal.
August 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm
No surprise here. Does anybody really believe that Obama is serious on creating jobs. He is intent on destroying everything possible. Part of the Muslim plan.
August 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Uh, the EPA and their regulations didn’t clean up the enviroment, advances in technology caused the decrease of pollutants released into our air and water. Now, the EPA is becoming to the “regulation world” as what unions have become to the working world. Both were needed in the beginning, but now they both are one part of the “big government” ideal of the socialists in Washington.
The list could go on and on. But not only were these commenters going after the EPA, they also re-hashed numerous other GOP talking points from the last few years. You’ll notice that they discuss the “Socialists in Washington” and one even makes the claim that Obama is a Muslim.
This shows just how powerful the GOP’s echo chamber is in American politics, and how selective people are when it comes to picking news sources. After all, there is plenty of credible, easily-accessible information to debunk “job killing regulations” and other talking points.
But if people don’t actively search out the facts after watching Fox or listening to Americans For Prosperity, the echo chamber has done its job misleading the American people. It's immoral and unethical behavior, and that's the only job we ought to be killing off.
Ever notice how people seem to listen to you more if you have a bag full of cash? Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce sure has. Politicians and corporations have as well. But it used to be, prior to 2010, that giant multinational corporations couldn’t use their equally giant bags of cash to directly influence how people voted in elections. Unfair for corporations you say? A travesty of justice perhaps? Luckily for our favorite corporate interests the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of pesky electioneering laws in the 2010 landmark court case Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. The court ruled that corporations, because they are considered individuals under the law like you and me, are fully protected by the first amendment of the constitution, and therefore should be able to spend as much as they want on political attack ads during elections. Now we all have free speech. You have free speech, I have free speech, Monsanto has free speech, all are equal- just like the writers of first amendment intended hundreds of years ago. And we can all freely spend our billions of dollars on political ads that support our own politics, thus bringing balance to the system.
But under this system it seems like some “individuals” have more free speech than others. ExxonMobil for example made $30.46 billion dollars in profit in 2010. That is a big bag of cash and thus, a lot of free speech. And now, if a politician does something Exxon doesn’t like (forcing them to clean up an oil spill or curb carbon emissions for example), Exxon can bankroll millions of dollars in political ads in support of an opponent. Most non-corporate “individuals” can’t do that. Does that sound like a government for the people and by the people to you?
Speaking of Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce, he represents an important facet of the hazardous fallout from Citizens United. It may be that Exxon doesn’t want to alienate consumers by picking sides in a contentious political match. Instead, they funnel money to trade and advocacy groups, like Donohue’s Chamber or Tim Phillips'Americans for Prosperity, who can then attack an offending candidate in any manner they choose, without impugning ExxonMobil’s good name. In fact one of the most insidious and corrosive of all of the Citizen’s United case’s effects is to increase the funding (and therefore importance) of corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce, who do not reveal their funding and are not accountable to the public.
In all seriousness the Citizens United v. FEC court case erodes the foundations of democracy in America. The decision has made it much easier for private interests with enormous wealth – like the now infamous Koch brothers – to use their riches to align public policy with their business ideologies, to the detriment of social, economic, and environmental justice.
This morning, CEOs, founders, and other leaders of 68 organizations sent a letter to President Obama, urging that he do what he can to stop the dangerous extraction of shale gas that is occurring across the country without any federal public safeguards. Often called 'fracking,' communities from Pennsylvania to Texas to Minnesota are already suffering from the numerous environmental problems connected with this process to force “natural” gas from shale several thousand feet below ground.
The letter states,
'Fracking involves shooting millions of gallons of water laced with carcinogenic chemicals deep underground to break apart rock to release trapped gas. Despite its obvious hazards, regulation necessary to ensure that fracking does not endanger our nation’s water supply has not kept pace with its rapid and increasing use by the oil and gas industry.
To date, fracking has resulted in over 1,000 documented cases of groundwater contamination across the county, either through the leaking of fracking fluids and methane into groundwater, or by above ground spills of contaminated and often radioactive wastewater from fracking operations. Rivers and lakes are also being contaminated with the release of insufficiently treated waste water recovered from fracking operations. In addition, fracking typically results in the release of significant quantities of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere despite the availability of cost-effective containment measures.'
The oil and gas industry have good lobbyists, and have achieved years ago exemptions under virtually every federal environmental law, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. Companies like Conoco Phillips, Chesapeake Energy and Talisman Energy are not even required to disclose the more than 900 different chemicals used in the fracking process, which contaminate aquifers. Talisman has even targeted children in its lobbying, with 'Terry the Fracosaurus' who promotes an industry that is polluting drinking water with toxic chemicals.
Oil and gas companies have spent over three hundred million dollars in the last two years lobbying against federal protections from their pollution, so it is not too surprising that the federal government has decided to 'shoot now, ask questions later.' There are few efforts by Congress and the administration to mitigate the public health impacts of fracking.
In the next week or two we should see some results fom a panel of experts set up by the Department of Energy, which is supposed to reach conclusions on how to frack safely. However, the panel is stocked with only frack-friendly experts. EPA is studying impacts on water quality, but that study will take years to complete and is limited in its scope.
While further knowledge about impacts is a certainly a good thing, in this case 'more research' means political procrastination. EPA found 24 years ago that fracking contaminates water supplies. So far the only legislation to get much traction is the 'FRAC Act,' spearheaded by Democracts from Pennsylvania, New York, and Colorado. This bill is an important step to closing one legal loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and would require that industry disclose which chemicals they're using.
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