politics

Wed, 2013-01-23 05:00Anne Landman
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Dick Armey's Tobacco Ties: The Early Years

This is the first of a three-part series on Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) and his relationship to Big Tobacco throughout his career.

Dick Armey, who recently resigned from the Tea Party group Freedomworks, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984, as a representative from Texas. A smoker, Armey first appeared on the tobacco industry's radar in 1985 after he appeared at a press conference in support of a bill aimed eliminating the federal tobacco support program – something the industry did not favor.

Even thought he opposed tobacco price supports, which put him squarely on the opposite side of that issue from the tobacco industry, Armey solicited a relationship with the industry.

In 1987, Armey wrote a
letter to Samuel Chilcote, President of the Tobacco Institute, saying he had a lot to learn about politics and asking if Chilcote would do him the “great personal favor” of sitting on his Political Action Committee Advisory Committee. Handwriting on the letter, apparently by Chilcote, cites a scheduling conflict, and indicates Chilcote likely did agree to Armey's request.

Nevertheless, after that the Tobacco Institute started regularly donating funds to Armey's re-election campaigns through its political action committee (“TIPAC”) in fairly small amounts at first – just $250 in 1987. The industry's donations to Armey grew steadily as his time and his influence in the House increased. By 1991, Armey was getting
$500 donations from TIPAC, plus additional donations from individual cigarette companies

By 2000-2001, Armey was routinely pulling in $1,000 donations from TIPAC and individual tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds (RJR), Lorillard and Philip Morris.
Wed, 2013-01-02 11:02Farron Cousins
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Wind Tax Credit Avoids The Fall Over The Fiscal Cliff

The U.S. government has managed to postpone financial calamity for a few months with the passage of a so-called “fiscal cliff” deal.  While the deal is hardly anything to celebrate in the larger scheme of things, it did provide a one-year extension for a critical clean energy mechanism – the wind energy production tax credit.

The credit has been in jeopardy since it was first introduced, with Republicans in Washington threatening to kill the tax credit, citing its estimated cost of $12.1 billion over the next decade as too costly.  However, the credit breaks down to a mere 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of wind energy produced in America, making it one of the cheapest subsidies approved for energy projects.

The extension of the credit comes at the perfect time, as the United Nations recently released a report detailing the ways in which climate change could cause financial disasters across the globe.

Among the more dire warnings in the U.N. report is the threat of water scarcity, which could devastate commodity markets, as agriculture would take a massive hit and crops would be decimated.  So while the United States might have postponed the drop over the fiscal cliff, the threat of the environmental and climate change cliff is very real, and very much in need of addressing. 

The wind production credit extension will keep the tax credit alive for the year 2013, which wil help wind energy companies to resume growing and to hire back workers laid off in the past year. Its fate after that remains unclear.

Mon, 2012-12-17 15:50Farron Cousins
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Republican Groups Tell Obama To Back Off Fracking Rules

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) along with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGAsent a letter to President Obama today [PDF], telling him that the federal government should abandon a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposal to create more transparency for natural gas fracking operations.

The proposal that the RGA and RAGA are referring to was first pitched earlier this year, and would require fracking companies who operate on federal or Native American lands to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process.  A loophole in the proposal allows companies to disclose after the fracking process has already begun, meaning that there are no requirements for disclosure prior to drilling. 

But even such lax standards are too much for the dirty energy industry’s friends, and they believe that the federal government is overstepping its bounds on the matter.  From their letter:

Wed, 2012-12-05 13:33Kevin Grandia
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Rep. Markey Raises Big Questions About Shell's Containment Dome Fail

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), has penned a letter to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, looking for answers about a Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) containment dome that “crushed like a beer can” in tests earlier this Fall.

Markey, who is the Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Natural Resources, is referring to a story first broken by Seattle radio station KUOW investigator John Ryan, revealing that in September Shell performed tests on a containment dome that was to be deployed as part of the company's controversial Arctic offshore oil drilling operations.

Sun, 2012-10-28 05:00Farron Cousins
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Why Is North America Behind The Curve On Climate Change and Energy?

Just three short years ago, it appeared that North America was on the verge of finally kicking that nasty dirty energy addiction that was crippling our economies and our energy independence.  The United States had elected a president (Barack Obama) who set incredibly lofty goals for renewable energy targets, and green energy investments across the continent were higher than anywhere else in the world.

Mon, 2012-10-22 10:55Farron Cousins
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What To Expect When You're Electing - The Candidates' Energy Plans

With only a few weeks left for American voters to decide between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, more and more attention is being paid to the candidates’ respective energy policies.

We’ve reported in recent months that Mitt Romney has stacked his energy team of advisors with dirty energy industry insiders and lobbyists, which gives us an idea of how he would run the country.  With Obama, we have the benefit of using the past as an example of what to expect in the future. 

But both candidates are now in a position where their current proposals and policy ideas are being shown to the public, so let’s break down what each presidential candidate says they will do with regards to energy and the environment, if elected.

Think Progress has put together a great side-by-side comparison of the two candidates, which gives us a very clear picture of where each candidate would take the country:

Wed, 2012-10-03 07:47Farron Cousins
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Top Romney Advisor Touts Coal, Fails To Mention His Role As Coal Lobbyist

Jim Talent, a former Republican Senator and one of Mitt Romney’s top campaign advisors, has played an instrumental role in the Romney camp’s positions on energy.  Specifically, Talent has pushed for greater consumption and mining of coal to meet America’s energy needs.

What the campaign failed to mention is that the lobbying firm that Talent is still on the payroll with lists one of the largest coal-producing companies in the country as one of its top clients. 

And although Talent is not registered as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.(thereby making it illegal for him to engage in lobbying activities,) his website clearly states that “lobbying” is one of the services he is able to personally provide for clients.

David Halperin has the story at Republic Report:

Sat, 2012-09-29 11:00Ben Jervey
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Congressional Report: Impacts of Climate Pollution "A Cocktail of Heat and Extreme Weather"

Ranking members of the House Committees on Natural Resources and on Energy and Climate released a joint report earlier this week that traces the imprints of climate change on recent extreme weather patterns.

With Going to Extremes: Climate Change and the Increasing Risk of Weather Disasters (pdf), Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) continue to forge ahead in their roles as the most outspoken and honest members of the House when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, they stand alone even in the critical committees on which they sit: the report includes a front page disclaimer that it “has not been officially adopted by the Committee on Natural Resources or the Committee on Energy and Commerce and may not necessarily reflect the views of its Members.” 

Going to Extremes opens with a quote by University of Arizona climatologist Dr. Jonathan Overpeck:

This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

It then proceeds to catalog the worst of the devastating weather trends of late, connecting the dots between these impacts and the greenhouse effect.

Thu, 2012-08-16 12:31Farron Cousins
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Fracking Industry Paying Off Scientists For "Unbiased" Safety Studies

As a whole, Americans have an unfortunate tendency to distrust scientists. The number of those who distrust science and scientists is skewed heavily by ideology, with self-identified “conservatives” overwhelmingly saying that they don’t trust science. DeSmogBlog’s own Chris Mooney has spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to finding out why science has become so controversial, and has compiled a great new book explaining why certain sectors of the U.S. population are more prone to denying many scientific findings.

And while most of the distrust that Americans have for scientists and science in general is completely without warrant, there are times when it is reasonable and often necessary to question the findings of scientists. Especially when the money trail funding certain science leads us right back to the oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, the ExxonMobil-funded American Enterprise Institute began offering large cash incentives to scientists willing to put their conscience aside to undermine studies that were coming out regarding climate change. The dirty energy industry knew that these studies would put their well-being at risk because they were responsible for so much of the global warming emissions, so they had to open their wallets to scientists who were more concerned with their finances than the well being of the planet.

A similar scenario played out in the months following BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP arranged meetings with scientists and academics all along the Gulf Coast, offering them $250 an hour to report on the oil spill, as long as the reports weren’t negative. This also would have allowed the oil giant an advantage in future litigation, by creating a conflict of interest for scientists that might otherwise testify against the company.

And then we have the media’s role in all of this, with 'experts for hire' like Pat Michaels allowed to pollute the public conversation with disinformation.

Fri, 2012-08-10 10:27Farron Cousins
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Republican Ohio Governor Kasich's Trillion Dollar Shale Gas Lie

About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.

The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.

Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.

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