Hypocrisy, thy name is Barack Obama. The president has singled out industrialists Charles and David Koch for supposedly orchestrating a movement to undermine his agenda, especially the various “climate change” policies that he’s pushing via unprecedented federal regulation.
These policies represent a massive tilting of the playing field toward wealthy and well-connected renewable-energy companies — special interests that now receive billions of taxpayer dollars every year.
This makes it all the more notable that President Obama has failed to mention the actual coordinated campaign in favor of this agenda — a campaign coordinated with the White House.
This massive effort is laid out in a new report — “Private Interests and Public Office” — by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute. For the past year, E&E Legal used state and federal public-records requests to uncover whom the White House worked with to promote its environmental agenda, especially its newly unveiled “Clean Power Plan.”
Unveiled in August, this sweeping regulation will force states to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by between 7% and 48%, potentially costing families and businesses some $366 billion in higher electricity costs over the next 15 years. Yet EPA-funded models show that it will have no detectable impact on climate, if it has any impact at all.
E&E Legal unearthed documents showing systemic collusion to promote this scheme. The coordination involves the White House, state governors and attorneys general, and a host of nongovernmental organizations affiliated with “major environmental donors” — especially billionaire Tom Steyer.
The campaign quietly began in December 2013, when the White House met with aides to Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif.; Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.; and then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, D-Ore. (Kitzhaber has since resigned following revelations about his office’s unethical conduct while promoting green energy policies.)
They wanted to ensure that states governed by Republicans felt significant pressure to implement this dubious federal mandate. They even hoped to “compel” utility companies operating across blue and red state lines to bring Republicans around.
This plan required hiring so-called “orchestrators” in key states. These positions, underwritten by private benefactors, would be “closely tied to each governor.” Their ultimate goal was to organize state-based campaigns involving renewable-energy companies, nongovernmental organizations, state officeholders and more.
As the White House wrote at the time, “We’ve got a few other tracks with private sector and unusual allies.” They included an extended campaign to enlist public officeholders beyond coastal liberal enclaves — the “flyover states,” as one email called them. More than a dozen governors’ offices were brought on board. Some are particularly surprising.
For example, Kentucky’s governor is now on record publicly saying that the president’s plan would be economically “disastrous,” yet the documents show his office among the “core group” and one of five that “welcomed quiet engagement” but couldn’t “commit … publicly.”
Other states keeping their interest under wraps included Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Tennessee.
This sort of political advocacy requires money, so the governors’ offices reached out to Michael Bloomberg, the Rockefeller family and other wealthy liberal benefactors. They especially focused on Steyer, who was preparing to spend $100 million promoting environmental issues in the 2014 election.
Emails show Steyer’s managing partner touting their priorities and “independent but coordinated entities.” He also noted: “Affiliated groups that we founded and fund (including NextGen Climate Action and Advanced Energy Economy) will be taking the lead for us on this.”
Billionaires such as Steyer fund the advocacy, research and outreach efforts crucial to building public support for the president’s plan. The ultimate goal is for every cog in this well-greased machine to move in the same direction — without seeming like they’re coordinated.
You can see why the stakeholders behind this campaign want to keep it quiet. The left routinely criticizes its opposition of being unfairly coordinated. But it turns out that the left does precisely the same thing — and it stretches all the way to the White House.
This also explains why some states did their best to foil our investigation. Officials in California, Kentucky and Virginia have stonewalled us nearly every step of the way, denying that records we already have even exist, retroactively deeming documents privileged and slow-walking our requests.
Absent a complete record, we can conclude only that the campaign to promote the Clean Power Plan is even larger than we discovered. But it is already certain that public servants from the White House to state capitals, advocacy groups across the country and the billionaires who underwrite them are involved.
The only real mystery is why it isn’t nefarious when Barack Obama is involved.
Horner is senior legal fellow at the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.