On Friday, the Heritage Foundation sent security staff to confront the Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) when it attempted -- from public property -- to identify the high-profile lobbyists and members of Congress who were attending a closed-door meeting between the Republican Study Committee and the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Heritage Foundation security staff attempted to physically block C&BP from photographing attendees.
C&BP is responding by launching an online "member identification" effort (see slideshow here) to get the help of others to identify which members of Congress the 164-member RSC chose to attend the meeting with ALEC, an organization under scrutiny because of its role as a "bill mill" for corporate special interest legislation.
With solar and wind energy installing record amounts of power generation, the fossil fuel lobby is attacking vital clean energy policies. But, these attacks rarely come directly from an ExxonMobil or Koch Industries' lobbyist. Instead, they are done through donations to groups, such as ALEC, Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity, which work to undercut the Production Tax Credit and state renewable energy standards because they are "costly."
But these groups tout themselves as "free market" groups, looking to cut government spending. We wanted to explore these groups' willingness to push for cuts in the enormous amounts of taxpayer money that members of Congress give to the fossil fuel lobby through tax deductions, tax credits, cheap access to public property, pollution clean up, and government-funded R&D and general cheerleading.
The Checks & Balances Project sought not only to identify meeting attendees, but to ask ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director Todd Wynn basic questions about ALEC's interest in devoting proportional effort to cutting wasteful government welfare to highly profitable, mature fossil fuel sectors.
The reaction we got at the Heritage Foundation was less then welcoming, though familiar to us from when we sought to ask basic questions of pro-gas, anti-clean energy pundit Robert Bryce of the fossil fuel-funded Manhattan Institute.
Over the past two weeks, the RSC of the House of Representatives has hosted at least two meetings with supposed "free market" groups like American Energy Alliance, ALEC and Heritage -- all of which receive funding from fossil fuel interests. These "free market" groups rarely, if ever, work to cut the far-larger government support given to the fossil fuel industry each year, and instead are focusing their attacks on clean energy even though taxpayers are forced to pay between $40 and $69 billion per year in fossil fuel welfare to the most profitable industry on the planet (PDF).
If we can identify which members of Congress attended the meeting, we can ask them about their interest in cutting wasteful fossil fuel subsidies first, given they are far larger than the cost of policies that support the growth of new clean energy sources.