It is said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That statement has proven itself true time after time in both politics and business, but I would like to amend that statement slightly: Power corrupts, but money and power corrupt absolutely. This year has been no different. We’ve seen unprecedented amounts of money flowing from the dirty energy industry into the hands of politicians in order to achieve everything on their corporate wish lists.
From near constant hammering of the Environmental Protection Agency, to getting approval for dirty energy projects, corporate money has corrupted every level of politics this year.
I already covered the extensive efforts of the Koch brothers in a previous post, but they are hardly the only culprits who are attempting to undermine democracy and decency by pouring money into politics. Here are a few other stories of interest that DeSmogBlog has covered over the last 12 months:
The biggest “non-event” for climate denier dollars this year was the Heartland Institute’s “Denial-a-palooza” conference:
When polluters needs someone to write an industry-friendly article, or make an appearance in the media to argue against the science of climate change, they often turn to a man named Marlo Lewis. A senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Marlo has been on the front lines of the energy industry’s war on science, as well as the fight against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the battle over the Keystone XL tar sans pipeline.
What makes Marlo a valuable asset is that he actually has a great resume. He received a Ph.D. in government from Harvard – a daunting and admirable task that commands respect. He’s also served in various governmental positions, including a brief stint in the Reagan administration, bolstering his credentials among elected officials in Washington, D.C. His position at the CEI also allows him a great deal of influence over our elected officials (it also happens to pay him a $100,000 a year salary for his work.) These credentials allowed him access to Congress a few years ago, when he was permitted to give a rebuttal to Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” to the assembly. Marlo was also allowed to tout the “dangers” of the Kyoto Protocol to Congress in 1998.
But Marlo’s resume does not qualify him as an expert on anything climate or science related. In fact, if you look just below the surface, it becomes starkly apparent that he is just another energy industry crony who is paid to deny that fossil fuel pollution causes problems.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Lewis Powell Memo, a document that set the stage for the creation of the echo chamber that protects corporate interests ahead of the public interest. A corporate lawyer and well-known tobacco industry defender at the time, Lewis Powell wrote this influential memo to a friend at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce laying out a strategy to develop a long-term campaign to set up corporate front groups and think tanks to manufacture the appearance of credibility for corporate interests.
The echo chamber that the right wing constructed over the past four decades since Powell’s infamous memo has played a central role in blocking action on climate change and a host of other public health and environmental threats. This unethical corporate propaganda mill capitalizes on the dark side of social sciences, preying upon people’s biases and encouraging them to support and defend corporate interests above their own.
Charlie Cray from Greenpeace USA has written an excellent overview of the significance of the Lewis Powell memo, and with the kind permission of Greenpeace, we share Charlie’s piece in full below. Please read it, share it widely, and help to shine a bright spotlight on this document. If more people understood the roots of this corporate propaganda campaign, perhaps they would become immune to its influence.
Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT Campus, the student wing of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, wrapped up its student climate and energy conference, the Truth 2 Power Conference. The Cable, Wisconsin conference was a direct response to the “dangerous agenda” of PowerShift2011. Apparently, finding solutions to effectively fight climate change and ensure a clean energy future are too much for CFACT’s big polluter interests and they had to fight back.
Truth 2 Power sought to teach participants about “the lies associated with the “Global Warming” agenda” and about “innovative and realistic solutions for tomorrows environmental challenges”.
The conference really represents a grab to ensure dirty energy industries stay entrenched.
Corporations are circumventing lobby laws by purchasing direct access to the nation’s lawmakers, according to a recent Bloomberg investigative report. Through membership fees paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington D.C. based policy institute, corporate entities like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries are playing an active role in shaping state legislation.
ALEC charges membership fees of up to $35,000 and levies additional costs if companies want to join in policy creation sessions. The resulting draft “model legislation” is then adopted by member officials who support its passage into law.
The process amounts to a legal loophole, through which corporations can influence public procedure without registering the activity as lobbying.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has launched a new website, ALECExposed.org, to help consumers understand more about the secretive business group that is helping craft industry-friendly legislation. CMD has obtained more than 800 model bills that were crafted by ALEC for state governments across the country. From a CMD press release:
At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their “task force” co-chairs – all Republican state legislators – to approve “model” legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the “American Legislative Exchange Council” (ALEC).
There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.
The Nation magazine has revealed that Koch Industries sent a letter to most of its 50,000 employees before the U.S. midterm elections in November 2010 advising them on whom to vote for. In “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” Mark Ames and Mike Elk expose the urgent “election packet” [PDF] sent to tens of thousands of Koch employees complete with ample libertarian reading materials instructions and a list of eligible vote-worthy (conservative) candidates.
As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the letter warns employees them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.
This story raises alarming concerns about corporations’ ability to influece the ways in which their employees vote. According to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, Koch is entirely within its legal right to pressure people in this manner because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.