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In the past 9 years, the US Congress had become a place where representatives are afraid to talk about climate change. How did that happen? Money, and lots of it, thanks to Citizens United.

Climate Change

Paris Climate Accords Withdrawal Bought And Paid For By Koch Brothers & Friends

In the past 9 years, the US Congress had become a place where representatives are afraid to talk about climate change. How did that happen? Money, and lots of it, thanks to Citizens United.

Remember those 22 Senators who wrote an impassioned letter to alleged president Trump recently, urging him to withdraw from the Paris climate accords? According to The Guardian, that group has received a total of $10 million from the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests over the past 5 years.

Big Money In Climate Accords Debate

koch brothers paris climate accordsThe Center for Responsive Politics conducted a review of Federal Elections Commission data at the request of The Guardian. It determined that those 22 senators received a total of $10,694,284 during the past three election cycles.

The Guardian reports, “Visible donations to Republicans from those industries exceeded donations to Democrats in the 2016 election cycle by a ratio of 15-to-1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that does not include so-called dark money passed from oil interests such as Koch industries to general slush funds to re-elect Republicans such as the Senate leadership fund.”

Its coverage continues, “At least $90 million in untraceable money has been funneled to Republican candidates from oil, gas and coal interests in the past three election cycles, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.”

Are you good at math? If you are, you will quickly realize the total torrent of cash sloshing through the halls of Congress in the past 5 years is at least $100 million. And that’s just the money we know about. Thanks to the US Supreme Court, such conspicuous corruption is not only legal but constitutionally protected “free speech,” although there is nothing free about it.

What Changed Between 2008 And 2017?

The New York Times this week reported on how the Republican party has dramatically changed its stance on climate change in recent years. In 2008, John McCain ran a campaign ad that called him the candidate who “sounded the alarm on global warming.” It featured a sequence of scary images of smokestacks belching pollution into the air and melting Arctic ice sheets.

Less than 10 years later, Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Science Committee called the global scientific consensus “exaggerations, personal agendas, and questionable predictions.”

Koch Brothers Buy Congress

The fossil fuel barons, Charles and David Koch, who own corporations that refine 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day and operate 4,000 miles of pipelines, have assembled a coterie of captive think tanks like The Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity, The Heartland Institute, and dozens of other so-called think tanks who crank out policy papers on demand.

While they attack climate scientists for having an agenda, the truth is, nothing comes out of any of those institutions that is not pre-ordained to support the Koch party line.  In 2008, the Americans For Prosperity dreamed up something called the “No Climate Tax” pledge. The pledge is based on this one sentence: “I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”

Free Speech For Whom?

After the Citizens United decision in January, 2010, the floodgates opened. As The Times describes it, “Unshackled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and other related rulings, which ended corporate campaign finance restrictions, Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity started an all-fronts campaign with television advertising, social media and cross-country events aimed at electing lawmakers who would ensure that the fossil fuel industry would not have to worry about new pollution regulations.”

The Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, ruled that a corporation should have the same right to have its voice heard as any private citizen. What the five solons who were in the majority in that case stubbornly refused to realize is that one person with a handheld megaphone doesn’t stand a chance of being heard if the opponent has a 1 million watt, 1,000 speaker public address system. The upshot is that ordinary people continuously have their voices drowned out simply because others have more money to spend on getting their message across.

Play Ball Or We Will Find Someone Who Will

What really turned the tide against support for climate legislation was the willingness of the Koch minions to put up compliant candidates to challenge any incumbent who dared to speak in favor of climate change proposals. Any similarity to how organized crime muscles in on legitimate business with its protection rackets is strictly intentional. When the Mob does it, it’s called criminal activity. When corporations do it, it’s called free speech.

By 2010, 165 members of Congress and candidates had signed the “No Climate Tax” pledge. Those who did not were simply voted out, thanks to the unending influx of money available to run candidates who would shut up and do what they were told by the Kochs and other fossil fuel interests.

Today, the outcome of any vote in Congress can be accurately predicted by simply totaling up the amount of money received by each incumbent. America now has the best government money can buy, a fact it proves every day of the week.

Should You Write A Letter To Your Congressman?

If you are annoyed by all this and think it is time to fire off a letter to your Congressman, remember this piece of wisdom penned by YIP Harburg, a satirical writer who also wrote Over The Rainbow. “Each Congressman has two ends — a sitting and a thinking end. And since his entire career depends upon his seat……why bother, friend?”

Stymied by the intransigence of the reactionaries in Congress, President Obama decided to do an end run around them by making policy by executive order. His Clean Power Plan, and the imperious way he presented it as a fait accompli to the nation, raised the hackles of many members of Congress.

The decision by Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords was at least in part payback for the damage members of Congress felt was inflicted upon them by Obama and the Clean Power Plan. It should be mentioned that the same people who were infuriated by Obama’s methods have had not one word to say about how Trump has ruled by executive order in the first months of his chaotic presidency.

It’s Not About Coal

The fight over coal is largely illusory. From a strictly economic perspective, renewable energy has won and coal has lost — bigly. What the country ought to be talking about is retraining programs for unemployed coal miners. The idea that any of then are going to go back down into the mines to dig coal is ludicrous, just as is the notion that the steel mills will be belching smoke into the skies over Gary and Pittsburgh again.

But the plight of coal miners resonated heavily in America’s Rust Belt during the last election as Trump played his audience like a fiddle. Hillary Clinton did herself no favors when she told an audience in the spring of 2016 that her climate policies would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Of Corporations, By Corporations, And For Corporations

The upshot of it all is that Koch and Friends now run America. Most of the Congress are beholden to them and kowtow shamelessly to their every wish. The problem isn’t going to get any better so long as Citizens United is the law of the land. Until that happens, America will continue on the path to becoming a third rate power. Far from being great, it will simply become irrelevant.

Source: The Guardian

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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