Money Talks: Big Oil & Special Interests Bankroll Anti-Clean Energy Efforts on the Campaign Trail

With a week to go before the U.S. midterm elections, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has released a great interactive map that shows who’s been bankrolling efforts to halt clean energy efforts and back the anti-clean energy reform agenda.  After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision permitted corporations to spend unlimited money influencing elections, the election terrain has become a dizzying display of corporate muscle and dollars.  Perhaps most dizzying is how easy it is for Big Oil and special interests to hide behind benevolent-sounding front groups, and how difficult it now is for us to know whose interests are shaping the elections.

In this midterm election, Democratic-aligned groups have been outspent by an astounding 7 to 1 margin, and Republican-aligned groups have flooded the nation’s airwaves with a flurry of ads.  According to CorpWatch, they have spent over $300 million, five times as much as they did in 2006.

CAP’s stats come from a Repower America report that shows the companies and organizations spreading misinformation about clean energy and climate change.  13 organizations have injected $68.5 million in 2010 alone into fictitious TV ads designed to spin clean energy legislation.  Since August alone, they’ve pumped over $17 million into their efforts. 

CAP’s report offers a state-by-state breakdown of the top donors, and follows the money to the source. And it’s not pretty.  The stakes for a clean energy future are high as oil and coal groups spend more and more helping climate-denying candidates run in tight races.

One such battleground is in California where out-of-state Koch Industries and Texas Oil companies Tesoro and Valero are funding a campaign to ensure that the domino ‘effect’ of the clean energy economy does not sweep across America.  To date, Big Oil and special interests have invested over $10 million into the campaign, $1 million alone on TV ads.  The vast majority is from out of state interests including Koch Industries who don’t want to see similar laws passed in other states.  Speaking of the Kochs, Charles Koch should debate Cal State Los Angeles student Joel Francis on Prop 23 instead of hiding behind his multi-billion dollar oil and chemical fortune. 

The Yes on 23 and “California Jobs Initiative” aren’t the only Orwellian-sounding organizations bankrolling anti-clean efforts on the campaign trail.  Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security, the Committee for Truth in Politics, National Taxpayers UnionClub for Growth Action, and American Crossroads GPS are also funding television ads to prevent progress on clean energy and climate legislation. 

In addition to Astroturf groups, a number of industry trade organizationss have donated handsomely including the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers.  In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, claiming to speak for business, has funded $3.8 million in energy-related ads as part of its anti-climate legislation lobbying agenda.  ThinkProgress recently reported that much of their funding is from foreign corporations, including the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company and Bahrain Petroleum Company.  Why are they helping fund the U.S. midterm election? 

So, though the midterm elections are days away, CAP’s report shows that the winners have in many way already been chosen.  Big Oil and special interests have scored a major victory over actual citizens since the Citizens United ruling, and now, instead of money talking, we need to be talking about the money.