05/09/2014 04:52 pm ET

Chris Christie's Climate Flip: Was Koch Group To Blame? (VIDEO)

In an online-only segment from the Showtime documentary series "Years of Living Dangerously," New York Times columnist Mark Bittman explores the environmental positions of New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie acknowledged the reality of man-made climate change in 2011, but also announced that he was pulling New Jersey out of the Northeast regional cap and trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

"I wanted to find out the reason for Christie's change of heart," Bittman says in the segment posted on the "Years" website.

Bittman spoke with Steve Lonegan, the former director of New Jersey's Americans For Prosperity chapter and the candidate Christie defeated in the 2009 Republican primary. AFP is a conservative advocacy group founded and funded by the Koch Brothers. In a clip from an AFP meeting, Lonegan claims that it was AFP that convinced Christie to abandon RGGI.

Lonegan left AFP to run for the U.S. Senate in 2013, but was defeated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Lonegan is now running for a House seat in South Jersey.

"There's a lot of questionable issues about whether or not carbon dioxide production is man-made," he told Bittman. Lonegan has been a vocal denier of man-made climate change and signed AFP's "No Climate Tax Pledge" to oppose any climate change legislation that might lead to tax increases.

"Why would Governor Christie listen to this guy, let alone endorse his failed senate campaign last year?" Bittman asks rhetorically in a voiceover. Americans For Prosperity has "deep pockets," he notes.

Through their various organizations, the Koch brothers have made hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign expenditures. They still hold significant interests in the oil and gas industry and work to protect them, the Center for Public Integrity's Charles Lewis explains to Bittman.

Previous "Years of Living Dangerously" episodes are available to watch for free from May 9 through May 11. Many cable subscribers can watch Showtime's free preview on air, and the Showtime Anytime app is available for mobile devices. Click here to learn more. Tune in to Showtime on Monday, May 12 at 8 p.m. to see the latest episode of "Years of Living Dangerously," featuring Bittman's segment.



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