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General News    H3'ed 10/31/12

The Environment, The Election, Money and the Koch Brothers

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The topic of the environment got a brief bit of play when Romney and Obama jousted about drilling on federal lands during the second debate. Romney reiterated his support for oil and coal, while doing a shout out for wind power (despite his stand against the production tax credit which impacts the wind sector and its jobs). Obama made sure to balance his call for renewables and "building the energy source of the future" with a nod to "clean coal" and "natural gas." But in comparing the two men's philosophies and records, it's clear that Obama has evidenced a strong commitment to the environment and specifically clean air (outlined in this Washington Post article). Romney's agenda has been strongly influenced by the donations of oil and coal, pointed to in a New York Times drilldown about how "some of the mightiest players in the oil, gas and coal industries are financing an aggressive effort to defeat him [Obama].

The efforts to stymie the President in his agenda to improve our health standards through EPA regulations have been spearheaded by monied influences--not only in the Presidential race--but down the ticket as well. Rep. Henry Waxman has stated that the 112th Congress is "the most anti-environmental house in history." A year ago, Waxman launched a database of anti-environmental votes. A June 1, 2012 report illustrated how House Republicans have voted to diminish environmental protections. There were 77 votes to attack the Clean Air Act, and 37 votes to obstruct any forward movement to tackle climate change.

I spoke with Jeff Gohringer, National Press Secretary for the League of Conservation Voters. They have a page on their site devoted to the funds that have been received by Romney called, "Big Oil's Big Money." With referencing links, it outlines details from Romney's top energy adviser being an affluent oil executive, to the influence of the Koch Brothers' money. Gohringer stated that Romney had "demonized the clean energy sector and the 3 million people who worked in it." He underscored that between 2005 and 2010, oil companies had been using taxpayer subsidies towards profits--while "laying off 11,000 workers in the United States."

I was familiar with the long reach of the Kochs. They consistently come up as one of the top ten polluters in the country. They have funneled $60 million to organizations supporting the denial of climate change, and that only covers 1997 to 2010. They support dismantling environmental regulations. They also have a track record of paying their way out of situations when they have flouted the law, covering up information, and falsifying documents. Multiple cancers have hit the population in Crossett, Arkansas, due to rivers that have seen waste dumping from the Kochs' Georgia-Pacific mill. The plant has been sited as an air emitter of formaldehyde. A study put forth by USA Today listed the Crossett school district in the first percentile of communities for schools being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

In the documentary, The Koch Brothers Exposed, Bill McKibben, the founder of, called the Koch brothers "carbon barons." Van Jones, founder of Green for All, said plainly, "They gotta do whatever they can to protect their profits."

A lawmaker who is not buying the Kochs' agenda is Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA). He has been outspoken about the fact that the Kochs don't want to comply with environmental regulations that will affect their companies. Also interviewed in the film, Connolly states that the Kochs are "trying to destroy and prevent the EPA from doing its job and protecting the public." He adds, "That's a stunning development in American politics--for years to come."

I researched several members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on for Responsive Politics. The Oil and Gas industries gave a total of $2,676,562 to members of the Committee, with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) garnering $236,750. (Koch Industries is based in Wichita.) The profile on Koch Industries, described as a "heavy hitter" in lobbying, led me to the elected officials who are their main recipients. Pompeo is at the beginning of the list, with the price tag of $90,000. Pompeo's personal page of top twenty contributors (Koch Industries is number one), explains how hired lobbyists and PACs distribute the collected funds.

There's plenty of information out there to show how currency is impacting the 2012 election. Just released by Common Cause is a report called "Toxic Spending." It outlines contributions from the chemical industry.

With the presidential election just days away, our country and our children deserve nothing less than the American public demanding accountability of those who threaten to poison their future.


This article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force.

Tell the Presidential Candidates to Talk about Climate Change

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Marcia G. Yerman is a writer, activist, and artist based in New York City. Her articles--profiles, interviews, reporting and essays--focus on women's issues, the environment, human rights, the arts and culture. Her writing has been published by (more...)

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