Facing South

Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

nostimulus.pngThe compromise version of the $787 billion economic stimulus plan passed the House and Senate Friday and is expected to be signed by President Obama tomorrow in Denver. Despite Democratic leaders' efforts to reach out for Republican support by dropping various controversial provisions and beefing up tax cuts, the measure passed with no Republican votes in the House and only three Republican votes in the Senate.

Public opposition to the plan was led by a group called Americans for Prosperity, which delivered 400,000 signatures on a petition to the Senate opposing the measure. As the group says in a statement at its NoStimulus.com website:

We lost. But we put up a heckuva fight!

We turned what was supposed to sail through with 80 votes and no controversy into a bloody knock-down, drag-out fight.

We showed that Americans won't passively sit by while our future is plundered. Just the fact that the bill shrank in conference committee -- they almost always grow -- showed that we had an impact.

Who is Americans for Prosperity? According to SourceWatch.org, the group was founded in 2003 with money from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, which is run by the billionaires behind Kansas-based Koch Industries -- the national's largest privately held oil and gas company. Media Transparency reports that the group gets substantial financial support from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, another one of the Koch family foundations.

Why would an organization funded by oil and gas interests be hostile to the economic stimulus plan?

Could it be the $50 billion the bill offers for more sustainable energy alternatives?

Among other things, the stimulus bill allocates $5 billion to weatherize more than a million modest-income homes and another $6.3 billion to install energy-saving insulation, windows and furnaces in federally funded housing projects, USA Today reports. It also offers a tax credit of up to $7,500 for families that buy plug-in hybrid cars, and includes $500 million for green jobs training.

Americans for Prosperity has long worked against any government efforts to tackle climate disruption by promoting more sustainable energy. Last year we reported on the group's "Hot Air Tour," which featured a hot-air balloon that traveled around the country with a message challenging what AFP dismisses as "global warming alarmism."

The organization is currently running TV ads in Virginia criticizing state efforts to address climate change. Last week, Gov. Tim Kaine signed a pact with the U.K., agreeing to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, research renewable energy and raise public awareness about climate change. Kaine has also championed legislation creating renewable energy tax credits and promoting the use of alternative fuels.

Here's the text for one of the Virginia ads titled "Tell Congress Not to Waste Our Money," which makes clear Americans for Prosperity's hostility to government support for more sustainable forms of energy:

MAN: OK, we're in a recession.

Times are tough and jobs are scarce.

Congress talks about economic recovery, but what are they doing?

Spending billions of taxpayer dollars in the name of global warming and green energy.

Who is going to bail us out and pay our bills? Instead, they will:

... Make energy more expensive

... cost us more to heat our homes

... and regulate our local businesses and our jobs out of existence

No thanks. Congress should stop wasting their time and focus on real problems.

ANNONC (VO): Isn't it time Congress listened to the rest of us and got its science and priorities straight.

Paid for by Americans for Prosperity

One of the directors of Americans for Prosperity is North Carolina millionaire businessman and former state legislator Art Pope. He funds a network of pro-business think tanks that was behind an effort to scuttle efforts to address global warming in North Carolina, as we reported inour 2007 Facing South investigation titled "Hostile Climate."

Americans for Prosperity has also been active on labor issues in North Carolina, where it's fighting the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers unionize. Today the N.C. NAACP is holding a press conference to highlight the fact that the group is a front for big business.

Interestingly, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president chose Colorado as the place to sign the stimulus legislation into law "to highlight some of the investments to put people back to work -- particularly clean-energy jobs."

UPDATE: A version of this story is now one of the top recommended diaries at DailyKos; to read the interesting discussion it's generated there, click here.


People Referenced:


re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

Objections to the stimulus bill had nothing to do with alternative energy or global warming. The objections are to spending huge sums of money on things that do little or nothing to stimulate the economy. It might be a good idea to increase welfare spending for the poor and those who have lost their jobs but it is not stimulus spending. If the stimulus bill was limited to things that primarily stimulate the economy, such as tax cuts, expedited infrastructure projects, and even research into alternative energy, the republicans would have supported it.

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

Good one, Dave. Way to spout the GOP party line about the stimulative effect of tax cuts for business. The last major business tax reduction was the GOP-backed Full Employment Act, which lowered taxes on repatriated overseas profits from 35% to 10%. More accurate to have called it the Share Buy-Back Act because that's exactly what big business did with the cash windfall. As a banker who tracks such things, I can affirm that share buy-backs stimulate nothing, including share prices (except maybe for a couple-three months, at best).

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

the republican war cry.
Whhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, thats my money...sniffle....sniffle....sniffle.

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

Would it damage our civil liberties for organizations seeking to influence public discourse, over public airwaves, to be required to provide an easily accessible audit trail of their real identity and financial support?

I use the moniker "Scarabus" to be consistent in identifying my on-line presence across various blogs and discussion sites. But I never say anything on-line or in letters to the editor or "guest editorials" without being ready to acknowledge financing (self-supported) or genuine identity (Wayne Dickson).

Why should those communicating with a vastly larger audience--over the publicly owned airwaves--not be required to do the same?

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

WOW...great republican talking points. Are you so buried deep in your republican ideology that you don't even take the time to learn what stimulus spending is? payment to the unemployed is stimulus spending or didn't you realize that the economy is consumer spending driven.

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

We, in the rest of the world, especially in Africa are really worried abouth the US.

For one, you are and will be, you must be the leading watch dog and safe haven for world wide economic growth, but, the way you "save" the American economy, caused by a very irresponsible leaders to promote "growth",on spending money on imported stuff,(who ever they are, whilst it exeeded their income, is and was criminal.

Those who have cold bloodedly promoted to over stretch the average citizens ability to pay back debt, should be jailed.

Forget your car companies. Save your average citizens home.

Why do you not learn some paid in blood lessons from Africa. A person without a home becomes either lost, a loser or a radical and a person with no means of uplifting himself or his family tomorrow.

An unstable US is and unstable world and empowerment of the ridiculous to have a bigger stake in world trade.


re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

What Republicans cannot stress strongly enough is if you reduce taxes by $1 billion it is a stimulus, but an identical sum of $1 billion given to the poor is spending.
Er, but, that $1 billion is only stimulating if it is spent.
If the economy was doing as well as some Republicans claim, then why is there such a backlog of projects which are shovel ready. Of course, doing the work while you can afford it is nonsense, it is better to wait for hard times and then go into debt. Except the economy can't have been doing that well because we went an extra $5 trillion dollars into debt AND didn't do the repairs.

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

Repugs also complain about the billions in aid channeled directly to the states to meet teacher and police payrolls, etc. But most states are running huge deficits, and large cash infusion's mean the states won't have to raise taxes soon to reduce those deficits. Repugs can't have it both ways, complaining because Obama isn't cutting taxes enough, and that the federal gov't has no business helping states hold the line on tax increases. The GOP, fresh out of ideas, is reduced to shooting spitballs from the back of the room. Thanks George W. Bush.

re: Investigation: The oil money behind the anti-stimulus fight

Sue - very interesting bit of investigative journalism. Much appreciated. I now have a better understanding of some of the modifications to the bill that occurred as it was weaving its way through the legislative process.

For example, one of the biggest changes during the drafting, committee discussion and voting process was action to drop a rather inexpensive provision - just $500 million in spending authority - that would have resulted in expansion of an established loan guarantee program funded entirely by the loan recipients. That program, established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, provides a federal government co-signature to long term, clean energy projects that have trouble attracting traditional investment bank finance because the payback periods are longer than Wall Street likes. (Investment bankers need fast returns to pay for their huge bonus programs.)

Of course, you have probably figured out that I am talking about the proposed $50 billion in loan guarantees for the portion of the Energy Policy Act program that allows nuclear fission to compete and is not just restricted to more "politically acceptable" renewable energy sources.

It is intriguing that a Koch backed group was not effective in removing the provision for non-nuclear alternative energy, but succeeded in removing the provision that includes nuclear. Perhaps that is because nuclear fission actually takes large chunks of market share from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas while no wind, solar or biofuel project has ever resulted in closing a single fossil fuel power plant. I may be way off base, but it sure seems to me that the following celebratory language in the Americans for Prosperity press release that you quoted refers directly to the nuclear accessible portion of the energy loan program.

"Just the fact that the bill shrank in conference committee -- they almost always grow -- showed that we had an impact."

It was one of the few provisions that got removed in conference and it was one of the few that were included in the Senate version but not the House, so including it would have counted as growing during conferencing.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast