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According to tax records and other materials acquired by Bloomberg News, Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, and numerous other corporations paid tens of thousands of dollars to write legislation for lawmakers that would repeal carbon pollution reduction programs in various states around the U.S.
These companies working to dismantle environmental programs are members of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which allows private-sector parties to “pay-to-play” – charging thousands of dollars to sit at the table with legislators and craft bills.
According to Bloomberg News, Exxon Mobil donated $39,000 to ALEC last year and the Koch Charitable Foundation donated $75,858 in 2009, the final year in which tax documents were available. Both companies, along with BP, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy helped draft legislation that has been introduced in Oregon, New Hampshire, Washington State and New Mexico designed to take those states out of regional cap and trade programs:
The eight-paragraph resolution, which was introduced in March, said “there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates” and “a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of carbon dioxide.”
The model resolution was adopted by ALEC’s Natural Resources task force in April 2010, according to minutes from the meeting obtained by Bloomberg.
The group drafting and endorsing it included 13 legislators from states including Texas, Kansas and Indiana and 21 private sector members representing companies such as Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries and BP Plc (BP/), and trade groups including American Electric Power, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy.
In April, Think Progress Green reported on a bill in New Hampshire written partially by ALEC that would take the state out of the Northeastern cap and trade program called RGGI. The text was eventually removed due to pressure, and earlier this month New Hampshire GovernorJohn Lynch vetoed another piece of legislation that would have taken NH out of RGGI.
There are five climate change-related “model laws” on the ALEC website and a couple dozen on energy, water and forestry. The pieces of legislation can only be accessed by people who have paid to be a part of the organization. ALEC has also written a model bill that would pull state agencies from potential EPA greenhouse gas regulations.
ALEC has been crafting legislation since the 1990’s. The organization retains about 2,000 state politicians as members and 300 companies and political advocacy groups as members. ALEC claims to be a bi-partisan group; however, Bloomberg points out that 97 percent of corporate donations among ALEC members to lawmakers went to Republicans.
Corporations are “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators,” said Jeremy Kalin, a former Democratic Minnesota state representative. “It’s an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws. Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”
The fact that ALEC is influencing state-level legislation through a “pay-to-play” model isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. But this latest revelation does show the direct role that corporate interests opposed to climate-mitigation efforts are playing in the political process.
STEPHEN LACEY is a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he writes on clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.