Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Shocker: Blue Dogs Thwart Fellow Democrat

Posted in corporations, environment, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 28, 2009

blue_dogIn an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, Congressman Jim Matheson said he has many problems with the global warming bill currently in committee. The bill is Henry Waxman’s creation, and is already under fire from his fellow Democrats.

But it’s no shocker that Matheson is one of the first suits to screech at the bill, since he receives over 20% of his campaign donations from energy, natural resource, transportation, construction, and agribusiness industries. Such industries normally aren’t on the forefront of asking Congress to cap their own emissions.

During opening statements, the Utah Democrat detailed 14 big problems he had with the bill, and told me later that if he hadn’t been limited to five minutes, “I might have had more.” 

I’ll bet. Matheson is one of 10 moderate Democrats (see: Blue Dog Democrats, or what they call themselves so people stop confusing them with Republicans) who are all worked up over Waxman’s bill. Strassel calls the bill “liberal overreach.” 

Really. Strassel doesn’t bother to then explain why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest climate report states the following:

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to human activities has increased by 70% between 1970 and 2004
  • Continued GHG emissions “at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.”

Considering a bill that would stem these awful trends is “overreaching,” according to Ms. Strassel. Of course, she doesn’t mean “overreaching” in the sense that caring for the planet isn’t important. She means “overreaching” in the sense that it could cost politicians like Mr. Matheson their donors. Strassel writes:

Design a bill that socks it to all those manufacturing, oil-producing, coal-producing, coal-using states, and say goodbye to the very Democrats necessary to pass that bill.

Yes, it could cost poor Mr. Matheson over 20% of his donations. But on the upside, it could save the planet. Strassel taps into a very important issue here. Obviously, most politicians aren’t going to bite the hands of their donors. We’ve seen this trend extend from debate over the financial bailout, which was ripe with cronyism and corruption, to the debate over how to deal with our warming environment.

Corporate money corrupts, absolutely. During the bailout, politicians with close ties to the financial industries were put in charge of the bailouts, including the Senate Banking committee Chairman, Chris Dodd. Dodd receives most of his campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry, and two of his biggest donors are Citigroup and AIG. The problem is systemic as we see in the environment debate with “Democrats” like Mr. Matheson. He won’t be voting against his corporate donors anytime soon. Daddy needs his sweet, sweet corporate cash, or as Strassel puts it, Matheson is “championing energy diversity and his state’s fossil fuels” i.e. tearing up and selling everything that isn’t nailed down.

Other Democrats standing in the way of Waxman’s bill are Baron Hill (IN), Rick Bouche (VA), Gene Green (TX), Charles Gonzalez (TX), Charlie Melancon (LA), Mike Doyle (PA,) many of whom are quite publicly in the pocket of the oil industry.  This isn’t some kind of scandalous secret. Most of their corporate donors are visible on public websites like OpenSecrets.org.

The scandal is that writing about such things is considered a platitude, an utterly banal thing to point out. The future of the planet is at stake, and pointing out the dirty money pouring from Washington  politicians’ pockets evokes an eye roll from the mainstream press. Journalists like Strassel write about dirty donations as though she were reporting on the weather.

Politicians, who are reliant upon donations from industries that poison the environment, cannot be trusted to then form legislation to protect the planet. At the risk of publishing more liberal “overreach,” such conflicts of interest (the financial bailouts, and now the energy/environment debate,) are both excellent examples of why publicly financed elections are so important. If corporate money isn’t permitted to infect politics, then bills that could potentially save the planet may have a fair chance of surviving committee.

Strassel, Matheson, and company will surely roll their eyes at such a naive statement, but that’s to be expected. If you spend your life swimming in pig shit, after a while, you’ll swear it doesn’t smell.

One Response

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  1. Peter said, on April 28, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Your post reminded me of blogs like these:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/
    who are talking down the subject.


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