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Billionaires Influencing the Politics of Climate Change.

Posted by: Noah Grunzweig @ Feb. 28, 2014, 11:36 a.m.

Better World Club Captain Planet True Identity Tom Steyer

Third Grader, Alice Bellwether, asks her Social Studies teacher if “checks and balances” is now talking about money.

Hush your valid concerns little girl.  Captain Planet has some work to do.

By Noah Grunzweig

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, which allows businesses, unions, and wealthy individuals to fund, without limit, the political candidates and issues they value, the amount of money spent to influence campaigns has more than quadrupled to nearly $1 Billion dollars spent during the 2012 campaign season.  One billion dollars was spent not informing citizens about ideas but fostering the current bitterly divisive political system, tipping the balance of ideas away from democratic discussion to the dogmatic camps of red (mostly white) and blue.

The majority of money contributed is coming from affluent, white individuals like the Koch brothers who have dumped millions into campaigns to lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services and less oversight of industry - in particular environmental regulation.  Millions have gone to fund and support organizations that contribute significantly to Republican candidates, and that lobby against universal health care and climate change legislation.  Millions have also gone into more traditionally Democratic issues, but it wasn’t till recently that anyone has focused entirely on environmental issues AND, more specifically, on climate change.

When thinking of the Koch brother, you may be imagining two short villains on a wacky bus wearing black trench coats and bowler hats, sporting evil curly mustaches and sly, impish smiles. And maybe you imagine fists full of cash as their super power and the Koch brothers bribing and buying their way to world domination; and you’d be pretty close – only these guys don’t ride the bus.

Fortunately, billionaire and former Hedge Fund manager, Tom Steyer (the most successful hedge fund manager to date, worth more than $1.5 billion), is planning to spend at least $100 million during the 2014 election season.  The focus of Steyer's political organization, NextGen Climate Action, will be to push climate change not just to the forefront of election issues, but to put it above typically divisive issues.

Steyer and NextGen will pump money into political races to unseat climate change deniers and supporters of the Keystone XL Pipeline – regardless of political/issue affiliation.  They don't care if a candidate is pro-life or pro-choice, for or against gun control.  What they are focusing on is trying to put politicians in office who want to tackle the most important national and global challenge of our time - Climate Change.  One of five candidates targeted for removal is Democratic Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, who has close ties to the oil and gas industries and has been an outspoken supporter of the Keystone pipeline.

As the New York Times reported, “Mr. Steyer [has already] poured tens of millions of dollars into a successful 2012 ballot initiative in California that eliminated a loophole in the state’s corporate income tax and dedicated some of the resulting revenue to clean-energy projects. He also has helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, appearing in a series of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project.”

Perhaps you too are thanking the green gods of capitalism; mass accumulation of wealth has nothing to do with political/ideological affiliation.  In our current climate of big money making big policy happen, having some of the wealthiest Americans start to take on Climate Change is a really positive movement (especially considering the enviro-antecedents of said wealth).

Perhaps also, you’ve had the same thought democracy advocates have been losing sleep over since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision; our Representative Democracy is fast becoming a Representative Corporatocracy.  Well, we at the Better World Club want to ease those fears.  You should know, In a Corporatocracy, we will still have representatives making policies, only our representatives will be the men who own Kellogg, Nike, Google, Walmart, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Bank of America, and Farallon Capital Management.  The good news is we won’t need to corporate campaign financing reform as we will all already be dumping billions of dollars into their campaign funds every year to live out various marketed lifestyles … I mean visions of a bright American future!

Does this make you nervous?  Do you want to give up on the massive potential of a Corporatocracy?  Of course not!  If everyone in America is willing to consistently support only companies that fit their social and economic values (occasionally “sacrificing” the feeling of convenience, low cost, status, or personal gain), a Representative Corporatocracy might work out really well!  If not, then we will continue to see a growing imbalance of political power – for better or worse - swaying with tides of corporate and wealthy individual interests. 

Besides, you don't have a stake in this fight anyways, right?

Like it.  Share it.  Post it.  Know it. . . And Think Critically.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/us/politics/financier-plans-big-ad-campaign-on-environment.html?_r=0

http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/19/billionaires-on-both-sides-of-climate-change/

http://www.policymic.com/articles/71255/10-corporations-control-almost-everything-you-buy-this-chart-shows-how

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/citizens_united.php

True Devil's Advocate: If you would just give up all awareness of personal power and connection to local, national, and global environmental issues and support the best billionaires who have a healthy, sustainable vision for our nation, then it will be billionaires marketing ideas to us, not personal efforts and thoughtful desires of Americans, that usher in an American Renaissance. You can be lazy AND save our world for future generations.  Win. Win.

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