Some of the biggest polluters in the country sent a promising signal a few months back when they came together as the US Climate Action Partnership with a unified proposal to solve climate change. While it was weaker than scientists say it needs to be, and loose on just how much these companies planned to enrich themselves if their proposal actually became law, it was nevertheless a breakthrough and a couple of environmental groups even supported it.
But smart skeptics know to be wary. Why? Because in the legislative game, when trillions of dollars in permits for the right to emit carbon dioxide are at stake, many of these companies follow a distinct pattern. The CEOs make sweet public pronouncements about caring for the earth, earnestly written by corporate affairs officers who may have even studied at fine places like the Yale School of Forestry. But when it comes down to crafting the legislation behind the doors of congress, the CEOs send in an entirely different team -- cynical, hard-bitten lobbyists who know how to get what their companies need to maximize quarterly profits. It's that simple. And their favorite tool is cash, in the form of campaign contributions.
So when we want to estimate how sincere a company is in its commitment to stop global warming, we have to go past the nice speeches. It's important to look at the recipients of the campaign contributions and then ask, where do these members stand on the policies proposed in the CEOs speeches?
A quick analysis answering just this question was just released by non-profit group Clean Air Watch. Elizabeth Kolbert called it "Donating to the Deniers" on The New Yorker. It shows the companies of US CAP funneling more than a half-a-million dollars into the campaign coffers of congress' biggest climate deniers for the 2008 election cycle; Rep. Barton ($106,500), Rep. Boehner ($162,500), Rep. Cantor ($109,500), Sen. Inhofe ($50,500) and Sen. McConnell ($99,000). Those trying the hardest to do something about global warming didn't fare so well; Rep. Markey ($8,000), Rep. Pelosi ($47,500), Rep. Waxman ($8,000) and Sen. Boxer ($12,200).
This is hypocrisy for sure, the only question then, is from which side of the CEOs mouth are the lobbyists getting their orders when the details of any climate plan are being finalized. Any bets?
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