Guest post by Connor Gibson, cross-posted from Polluterwatch.
Two days ago, President Obama denied the permit for the destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, much to the dismay of Big Oil's top lobbyist and propagandist. Speaking at the National Press Club to an audience dominated by oil, coal and nuclear representatives and lobbyists, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard continued to lash out at President Obama over the pipeline decision. However, activists attending their event fact checked Jack's big oil talking points.
Shortly after asking the president, “what are you thinking?!” a group of activists stood and delivered a call-and-response “fact check” over Gerard's speech – see the full Fact Check video. After the event, PolluterWatch's Connor Gibson approached Jack Gerard on camera and repeatedly asked him how much the American Petroleum Institute (API) is spending on its new “Vote 4 Energy” advertising campaign (which, as Mr. Gerard has absurdly claimed, is “not an advertising campaign”). Jack refused to answer:
Vote 4 Energy, which was mocked by a parody commercial during its public release, is the American Petroleum Institute's newest money dump to pretend that most Americans support politicians who represent Big Oil more than their own constituents. Wrapping its talking points in patriotic rhetoric, API's real intent is to continue getting billions of taxpayer dollars each year to corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, which rank among the most profitable companies in the world.
Protesters marked the second anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling by unfurling a banner reading “U.S. Supreme Koch” on the court house steps. The action is part of a week-long effort to raise awareness of the unjust power that the Citizens United decision has gifted to corporate special interests and billionaires like the Koch brothers over U.S. politics.
The Supreme Court's astonishing ruling in Citizens United v. FEC enables unlimited corporate expenditures on political campaigns and allows donors to influence elections without being identified. It's exactly the weapon that corporations like Koch Industries, run by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, are using to turn the U.S. into an oligarchy that serves the 'needs' of the 1% and endangers the rest of Americans.
“The Kochs and their kind are engaged in a hostile corporate takeover of our nation’s political system,” said John Sellers, co-founder of The Other 98%. “We've come to the scene of the crime today – the U.S. Supreme Court – to tell the justices exactly what we think of the infamous Citizens United ruling that made that takeover possible.”
“The Supreme Court has undermined government of, by and for the actual people by defining corporations as people and money as speech,” said Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now.
Here are a few pictures and a video of the action:
American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard today announced the oil and gas industry’s latest election-year scare campaign to threaten the demise of the U.S. economy unless Big Oil gets its every wish in Washington. This year the wish list includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, expanded offshore drilling on both coasts, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and more federal lands in the West to drilling, and smaller buffer zones between drilling operations and drinking water supplies.
What if Washington doesn’t comply by delivering Keystone XL and the rest of the wish list? Gerard, the oil industry’s chief bully, threatens “huge political consequences” for Barack Obama.
You can almost set your watch to this industry’s tired plays on this front. If it’s January of a presidential election year, it must be time for the oil industry to threaten Washington politicians to ensure they continue to do the industry’s bidding. The threats are delivered in the form of outlandishly expensive advertising campaigns and punditry tours, aided by a captive media that serves its role as stenographer for the industry’s inflated jobs figures and misleading claims.
The API campaign is nothing more than a fresh skin on a very old and stale argument – that President ______ (insert current name) needs to continue opening up more of the nation’s lands, particularly public lands, for oil and gas drilling, OR ELSE ______(insert latest political talking point), in this case “jobs jobs jobs” will be lost (a bogus argument).
CNN notes the close correlation between API’s target states and some of the hottest states in the 2012 U.S. elections – hint: they’re the same.
By David Suzuki (originally published on the David Suzuki Foundation website)
Who is influencing Canada's resource priorities? In a puzzling appeal to anti-American sentiment, some industry supporters claim that U.S. foundations are threatening Canadian policy by donating money to environmental groups here. These arguments have appeared in publications such as the Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald, and on Sun TV.
Greenpeace has released research that points in a different direction, one that seems more logical. The Greenpeace report, “Who's Holding Us Back?”, shows that multinational and U.S. corporations in the oil, mining, and chemical sectors, among others, have been spending money and using industry trade associations, think-tanks, lobbying, and revolving doors between government and industry to block action on climate change and influence resource policy in Canada and elsewhere.
Opponents of environmental initiatives point to recent protests against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to B.C.'s north coast. They say this opposition is part of a conspiracy by U.S. funders to ensure that oil keeps flowing to the U.S. and not to Asia. That the same people also oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would take bitumen from the tar sands to the U.S., doesn't faze those who promote this twisted logic.
If these conspiracy theorists were truly upset about U.S. influence on Canadian infrastructure and resource development, they would lobby for greater national control of the oil industry, much of which is owned by U.S. and Chinese corporations. They might also question U.S. industry and foundation funding for organizations such as Canada's right-wing Fraser Institute, which has the same charitable status as the David Suzuki Foundation and other conservation groups and is thus governed by the same rules.
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.
The Lewis Powell Memo - Corporate Blueprint To Dominate Democracy
by Charlie Cray, Greenpeace USA
The Checks and Balances Project has obtained a copy of the controversial Energy Information Administration report that was called “garbage” by EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht. The polluter-friendly report was just delivered yesterday afternoon to the GOP House requesters, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Checks and Balances provided a copy to DeSmogBlog, which we’re providing to the public here: “Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010” [PDF].
Gabe Elsner, Deputy Director of the Checks and Balances Project, told DeSmogBlog that, “if it’s true that the Acting Administrator Gruenspecht called this report a “piece of garbage” he was right, because it deliberately leaves out the six other ways in which coal, oil and natural gas get government handouts. The fossil fuel welfare tab is tens or hundreds of times greater than the cost of pro-renewable policy support.”
Willie Soon, the notorious climate denier who has made a career out of attacking the IPCC and climate scientists, has received over $1 million in funding from Big Oil and coal industry sponsors over the past decade, according to a new report from Greenpeace.
The Greenpeace report, “Dr. Willie Soon: a Career Fueled by Big Oil and Coal,” reveals that $1.033 million of Dr. Soon’s funding since 2001 has come from oil and coal interests. Since 2002, every grant Dr. Soon received originated with fossil fuel interests, according to documents received from the Smithsonian Institution in response to Greenpeace FOIA requests.
The documents show that Willie Soon has received at least $175,000 from Koch family foundations (Soon is a key player in the Koch brothers’ climate denial machine, as Greenpeace documented previously), $230,000 from Southern Company, $274,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, and $335,000 from ExxonMobil, among other polluters.
UPDATE: Video footage of the Greenpeace airship flight below this post.
A Greenpeace airship today flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”
Greenpeace also released information collected from tax records confirming that the Koch Family Foundations continue to fund climate denial organizations. The most recent records available document that the Kochtopus dished out $6.4 million in 2009 to front groups and think tanks that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. That brings the Kochtopus’s confirmed Dirty Money total to $54.9 million since 1997, with the majority, $31.3 million, spent since 2005.
75 groups from across Canada, the U.S. and Europe have signed a petition calling on the federal and Alberta governments to immediately phase out existing tailings lakes and deny any proposed project that would create new tailings lakes. Greenpeace issued the call-out last week, and 45 groups across Canada, including 23 Alberta-based groups, six U.S. groups, and one group from Europe have signed on to support a moratorium on destructive tar sands practices. To date, there have been over 600 signatories to the petition.
Greenpeace’s petition comes as European members of Parliament (MEPs) wrapped up their tour of the Alberta tar sands late last week. European members of Parliament were visiting to weigh in on the controversial dirty crude and were to report back on their findings regarding fuel legislation that could inhibit or impact the use of tar sands products. At stake is possible legislation and restriction on the importation of the dirty crude, or the labeling of it as “dirty” or “high carbon”.