It seems like yesterday that Tim Pawlenty was calling on Congress to “Cap greenhouse gas pollution now!” As governor of Minnesotta, Pawlenty proudly boasted of his record on issues like “green jobs” and “renewable energy”:
But Pawlenty didn’t just talk the talk when it came to climate change. He walked the walk. In 2007, T-Paw signed Minnesota’s Next Generation Act into law, requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2050. He also was a leading proponent of the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA).
Today, Pawlenty is singing a very different tune. “I think cap-and-trade would be a ham-fisted, unhelpful, damaging thing to the economy," he told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham on Monday.
So why has T-Paw flip-flopped on climate change? The answer may lie in the well-oiled political machine maintained by billionaire oil tycoons like Charles and David Koch. The brothers behind Koch Industries tied for 18th place in the latest edition of Forbes Billionaires List. Their combined net worth of $44 billion comes close to rivaling that of Warren Buffet, who ranked #3 on the list at $50 billion. These days the duo isn't shy about using Koch money to influence politics. In fact, they boast about it on the front page of Koch Industries’ website.
Tim Pawlenty has been actively wooing Koch-funded groups since 2008, when he spoke at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 35th Annual Meeting in Chicago. T-Paw has also been cozying up to Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the 501(c)(4) founded and funded in part by David Koch. It’s a relationship that’s starting to bear fruit here in New Hampshire, where Pawlenty will headline two AFP events in April alone. He’ll be at the group’s Tax Day Tea Party in Concord on the 15th and its’ Presidential Summit on Spending and Job Creation in Manchester on the 29th.
ALEC and AFP are behind the current GOP drive to end New Hampshire’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), as documented in my recent article for Grist.org. The two groups are also targeting MGGRA, the same regional cap-and-trade initiative Pawlenty embraced as governor of Minnesota.
If Tim Pawlenty really has sold out on climate change, it is easy to understand why. Just watch the ads AFP aired in New Hampshire in 2010 to punish Democrats who supported cap and trade:
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter – NH 1st Congressional District
Her vote for new energy taxes could hurt New Hampshire families and small businesses.
That’s Koch-speak for cap and trade.
After serving two terms in Congress, Shea-Porter was defeated by Republican Frank Guinta by a blowout margin of 54 to 42 percent. To win the Koch-money that helped bring his opponent down, Guinta had to pull a major flip-flop on cap and trade:
2007: As Mayor of Manchester, Guinta signed onto the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to “urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system.”
2010: “Frank Guinta opposes the 'cap-and-trade' scheme that will destroy jobs and raise prices for gas, electricity and other sources of energy.” Source: TeamGuinta.com.
Ann Kuster – NH 2nd Congressional District
And Kuster supports the kind of higher energy costs that could hurt New Hampshire’s jobs and economy.
Again, Koch-code for cap trade.
A first time candidate for Congress, Ann Kuster went on to lose the race to Republican rerun Charlie Bass by the oh-so narrow margin of 3,500 votes. Despite being dubbed a “cap and trade Republican” by National Review at one point in his career, moderate Bass was willing go along with the Koch-line on cap and trade in order to defeat his opponent:
“Anne Kuster: Supports Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade that will impose taxes on businesses and cost NH more than 6,000 jobs annually.” Source: VoteBass.com
The ads cost AFP around $75,000 a piece, paid to Mentzer Media Services. AFP is based out of Washington, D.C. Mentzer is located in Towson, Maryland. Regardless, a blog posting announcing the anti-Kuster ad bore the misleading title, “Tell Kuster to Support New Hampshire, not Washington”.
Of course, these ads are kids stuff compared to the virulent TV spots aired in the Granite State by the American Action Network (AAN), a shadowy conservative group run by GOP insiders with close ties to Karl Rove. AAN spent close to $15 million influencing the 2010 election, $1.75 million of it in New Hampshire. We still don’t know where all that money came from, thanks to a legal loophole designed to protect donors’ secret identities. What we do know is that a lot of AAN's money was spent trying to scare voters into opposing cap and trade:
AAN spent a mind-boggling $875,000 airing this ad accusing Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hodes of wanting to kill granny, all because he voted for climate legislation as a two-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives. It worked. Hodes suffered a landslide 60-37 percent defeat to Republican Kelly Ayotte. Like Guinta and Bass, Ayotte had to pull a major flip-flop on climate change to win the support of outside spenders:
2005: As Attorney General for the State of New Hampshire, Ayotte signed onto a letter opposing the Clean Skies Act because it failed to address global warming.
2011: “Passing a massive cap-and-trade bill that would increase taxes, raise energy costs, and redistribute wealth - all without impacting the overall level of global greenhouse gases - is the wrong approach,” Senator Ayotte wrote in a recent letter to constituents.
By now, you are probably getting the gist of what Republican presidential candidates will be forced to say if they want to stay on the right side of Big Oil’s political machine in 2012:
Cap and trade will drive up energy costs, hurt the economy, eliminate jobs, and, of course, kill granny.
To debunk these claims, one only needs to look at New Hampshire’s real world cap and trade experience under RGGI. For one thing, RGGI is super cheap. It only costs the average residential ratepayer in New Hampshire somewhere between 6.5 and 36 cents per month. Furthermore, the benefits of the program far outweigh the costs. By July of 2010, RGGI had provided $17.7 million in funding to 30 projects designed to improve energy efficiency, support energy education and outreach, and provide energy efficiency job training to workers across New Hampshire. In addition to creating jobs, these projects are expected to reduce consumer energy costs by $60.6 million. Not a bad deal for just pennies a month.
It is up to voters to tell Tim Pawlenty and every other presidential candidate to stand up for the people of New Hampshire, not for special interests in Washington, D.C.
Tim Pawlenty is making it easy for voters to do just that. Visit TimPawlenty.com today and tell him to stand strong and defend his record as a champion of clean energy solutions to climate change and a creator of green jobs for America.