Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is facing an uphill battle for reelection in next year’s midterms. But luckily for McConnell, his powerful allies in the dirty energy industry have deep pockets and are willing to shower his campaign with cash to help increase his chances of victory.
Over the last year, McConnell has been described as “the most unpopular Senator,” and in the last few months his approval rating has fallen to the mid-30’s. He is currently trailing Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes by 2 percentage points in polls.
McConnell’s allies in the business community, specifically the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released an ad earlier this week touting McConnell’s commitment to the coal industry, and attacking the so-called “war on coal” coming from the Obama Administration. Here is the ad:
According to 350.org, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funded, at least in part, by a number of dirty energy companies. This helps explain their willingness to use the “war on coal” as a tool to aid in McConnell’s reelection.
However, as I’ve pointed out several times in recent months, the Obama Administration has not waged a war on coal — a fact that the coal industry readily admits. Furthermore, the war on coal talking point failed to resonate with Kentucky voters in the 2012 election, and there is no evidence to suggest that it will fare any better in 2014.
What politicians like McConnell and groups like the U.S. Chamber are actually supporting is an assault on public health and the environment in Kentucky, not to mention the working class. The coal industry has proven to be a disaster for residents, as I wrote back in August:
In a nutshell, the coal industry is a net negative for the state of Kentucky. When considering only the direct costs that the coal mining industry encounters, which includes research and development, training, and repairing the infrastructure that is destroyed or degraded during coal mining and moving, the industry is in the red.
Coal mining and coal dumping sites are riddled with both poverty and exceedingly higher than average rates of cancer. Both of these external costs are shifted onto the taxpayers and federal government, who will ultimately have to pay for assistance and healthcare for those affected by the industry’s activities.
Kentucky, as a direct result of the coal industry, is home to Congressional districts that rank last in the country in life expectancy, general well-being, and emotional and physical health…the state ranks fourth in the country for toxic power plant emissions, and is second in the nation for the release of arsenic, a cancer-causing heavy metal released into the environment from power plants and mountaintop removal mining.
McConnell is so desperate to win re-election that he is willing to support an industry that is literally killing his home state, and he’s even more willing to take money from a group like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which has become political poison for candidates.
In the 2012 election, the Chamber was only successful in 6.9% of the campaigns that they supported, making them one of the biggest losers, both financially and politically, in last year’s elections.
In the 2010 midterm elections, the U.S. Chamber spent more than $132 million to support industry-friendly candidates, with 94% of that cash going to candidates who deny the existence of manmade climate change. That’s not exactly a crowd that McConnell needs to be a part of if he hopes to continue his political career in an era where the majority of the public accepts the science of climate change.
The “war on coal” talking point has failed in the past, and it will fail again in the future. The same can be said of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Americans are beginning to wise up to the fact that candidates who support the destruction of the environment and public health are not to be trusted, and that could spell the end for politicians who prioritize dirty energy dollars ahead of the interests of their constituents.