Buying Congress

Until we pass legislation reversing the Citizens United decision that allows corporate billionaires to pour massive amounts of campaign cash into the system, we’re pretty much screwed. Unless, of course, we start to walk like Egyptians, and I don’t see that happening:

The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington’s political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.

Claiming an electoral mandate, Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs’ core energy businesses.

The new committee members include a congressman who has hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff. Another, Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, won a long-shot bid to unseat a 14-term moderate Democrat with help from Americans for Prosperity, which marshaled conservative activists in his district. By some estimates, the advocacy group spent more than a quarter-million dollars on negative ads in the campaign. “I’m just thankful that you all helped in so many ways,” Griffith told an Americans for Prosperity rally not long after his election.

Perhaps the Kochs’ most surprising and important ally on the committee is its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton. The Republican from Michigan, who was once criticized by conservatives for his middle-of-the-road approach to environmental issues, is now leading the effort to rein in the EPA.

Upton received $20,000 in donations from Koch employees in 2010, making them among his top 10 donors in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In recent months the congressman has made a point of publicly aligning himself with the Koch-backed advocacy group, calling for an end to the “EPA chokehold.” Last week the chairman released a draft of a bill that would strip the EPA of its ability to curb carbon emissions. The legislation is in line with the Kochs’ long-advocated stance that the federal government should have a minimal role in regulating business. The Kochs’ oil refineries and chemical plants stand to pay millions to reduce air pollution under currently proposed EPA regulations.

3 thoughts on “Buying Congress

  1. Following generations, perhaps even those now infants and toddlers, perhaps sooner, will look back at these times and decry and condemn our leadership, our legislators, probably all of us, for destroying our climate and our economic security.

    We must leave some record of what we do know if happening and who is behind the lack of action. Thank you, Susie, for such a record.

    When will a photo like this be taken of a 7 year-old girl in the United States? I just can’t get it out of my mind.

  2. Heh. Charles Krauthammer just played the anti-climate change fool on Washington Insider. The host noted that Al Gore explained to Gail Collins that there is now 4% more moisture in the air than in the ’70’s and the increased moisture content results in heavier rains and snowfalls.

    Krauthammer said that if King Kong appeared in Times Square, Al Gore would say it was due to global warming.

    Crikey, Charles! That doesn’t even make sense on any level — except to take a cheap shot at Al Gore! And it’s not remotely funny. WTF is wrong with Krauthammer? And why is he considered a TV talk show stalwart?

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