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Why Voting Matters for the Climate Movement

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Who owns our democracy: Big Business or We the People?

Corporations -- led by Big Oil and Dirty Coal -- are trying to buy this election in plain sight. Their front groups are on target to spend more than $300 million to buy the election -- and this is after big polluters have already spent a fortune lobbying Congress, mounting a PR offensive after the BP oil spill, and trying to kill California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with Propositions 23 and 26.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there's been an unprecedented amount of outside spending during the 2010 mid-term elections, with a far greater increase in funds from conservative-leaning outside groups. Right-wing groups have spent $169.2 million so far -- up from $19.6 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 8.5). Analysis from Center for American Progress Action Fund* notes that more than $68 million of outside political spending is coming from dirty energy industries like Big Oil and coal-heavy electric utilities.

It's impossible to look past the corporate influence in this election cycle -- brought on by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling -- from big polluters and climate science deniers. It's glaring even at the state level: Out of eight Northeast states with contested governor's races, only Vermont has a race where both candidates affirm climate science. Anti-climate candidates in these key states could roll back the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or state renewable energy standards.

There's no sugarcoating the chances for future comprehensive climate policy in the next two years. In fact, we anticipate an all-out attack on the EPA and the Clean Air Act by several House and Senate members.

But anger and despair can't lead to inaction or apathy. Voting still matters for the climate movement. Why?
  • Recent polling consistently shows an 11-point spread against California Proposition 23. Getting the vote out in California is crucial to defeating both Prop 23 and Prop 26 at the polls and widening a margin that only a month ago favored Big Oil.
  • Climate champions like Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) are all committed to pushing for climate-related legislation next year. Waxman told Politico: "I think the issue is becoming more and more serious and people are realizing it, which I hope will increase the pressure on the Congress to take the actions we need to."
  • Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room outlines 15 House races and six Senate races where climate heroes are running against climate deniers. These are races in which candidates need to hear that climate is still an issue.
More importantly, voting is a right that gives voice to your concern about climate change. People in the climate movement -- or anyone who believes in what we're doing to avert a climate crisis and bring about an energy revolution -- can push back on Big Oil and Dirty Coal by exercising their right to vote. See you at the polls on Tuesday!

*Editor's Note: This post originally accredited analysis on polluters' ad spending to the Center for American Progress, but it is actually a product of that organization's 501(c)4 affiliate, the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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