Exposed: Corporate cash is the lifeblood of climate change denial on Capitol Hill

 

Exposed: Corporate cash is the lifeblood of climate change denial on Capitol Hill

By Moyers & Company
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 9:53 EDT

A man blinded by money. Photo: Shutterstock.com.

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If you wonder why so many members of Congress are in denial when it comes to climate change, follow the money. This week, Forecast the Facts and SumOfUs, two grassroots groups working to sway public opinion about global warming, took a step toward holding legislators accountable with the release of a new report exposing the companies that since 2008, according to FEC data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, have bankrolled the “Climate Denier Caucus” to the tune of $641 million in campaign contributions.

Many of these companies claim to be working to fight global warming, even as their dollars help send climate change ”skeptics” to Capitol Hill. The report not only names names, but also highlights the apparent disconnect between political spending and corporate public relations efforts. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told an audience that gathered to laud the company’s efforts to build “a better web that is better for the environment” that “you can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you’ll be seen as a liar.” At the same time, the company whose motto is “do no evil” has kicked in almost $700,000 for Congressional climate deniers since 2008.

That was far less than the $3.3 million AT&T has showered on the science deniers in that same period, a figure that represents “more than 25 percent of its total campaign funding” during that time. The company’s Climate and Carbon Emissions Policy says that AT&T is “committed to operating in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner …[and] to working with our suppliers to limit environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions in our supply chain.” UPS promises its customers that the company “will be part of the solution to discover more opportunities for improvement with our industry partners and other thought leaders. It will take determination and collaboration…to create a sustainable transportation infrastructure that will minimize environmental impact.” But that ethos didn’t spill over into their campaign spending — since 2008, UPS has donated close to $2 million to the campaigns of climate change deniers on Capitol Hill.

Other companies that made the list despite “strong rhetorical commitments to climate action” include Microsoft, Ford and eBay.

The study doesn’t capture all of corporate America’s support for the anti-science caucus; the authors point out that the report doesn’t include “contributions from corporate-friendly advocacy groups, such as the Club for Growth, which has given $3.7 million to climate deniers since 2008.”

Many of the companies bankrolling these politicians would say donations were made because the legislators support corporate tax breaks, financial deregulation or myriad other business-friendly policies. While that may be true in a narrow sense — firms in the energy sector were only the third biggest contributors to the denial caucus — when companies support politicians along their career paths, they are ultimately responsible for what they do once in office.  With new research finding that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” and with corporations, business groups and deep-pocketed donors calling the shots, that responsibility is especially pronounced. That’s why corporate disclosure of political spending enjoys broad appeal with the American public and is vitally important for democracy.

This story first appeared at BillMoyers.com.

[A man blinded by money. Photo: Shutterstock.com.]

 

#DisruptDenial

America’s biggest brands say they want action on global warming, but spend millions to keep climate change deniers in Congress.

Tell the CEOs of Google, UPS, Ebay, Ford, and Microsoft: Live up to your public commitments.
Stop bankrolling climate change deniers in Congress.

22,588 signers so far. Our goal: 25,000

90%

Worst Offenders

Funding the opponents of their own climate goals

$699,195

Google

What they’ve said: “Google is creating a better web that’s better for the environment. We’re greening our company by using resources efficiently and supporting renewable power. That means when you use Google products, you’re being better to the environment.”

$1,974,663

UPS

What they’ve said: “We will be part of the solution to discover more opportunities for improvement with our industry partners and other thought leaders. It will take determination and collaboration…to create a sustainable transportation infrastructure that will minimize environmental impact.”

$791,285

Ford

What they’ve said: “We have a comprehensive, science-based global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our products and processes while working cooperatively with the public and private sectors to advance climate change solutions.”

$1,072,931

Microsoft

What they’ve said: “Climate change is a serious challenge that requires a comprehensive and global response from all sectors of society. To address it, Microsoft is committed to measuring, transparently reporting, and reducing the carbon footprint of our own operations.”

$252,302

Ebay

What they’ve said: “eBay actively supports public policy to spur clean energy development and adoption, and federal policy around climate change.”

Discover how these companies are preventing and undermining the real action we need.

Climate Change Bankrollers

$805,118

Abbott Laboratories

What they’ve said “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented us with the 2013 Climate Leadership Award for addressing climate change.”

$1,348,065

Altria Group

What they’ve said: “Since our companies rely on agricultural products, we are aware of the balance of nature and the concerns about how climate change could alter that balance. Reducing carbon emissions is one way to reduce the environmental impact of our businesses.

$980,949

American Electric Power

What they’ve said: “As one of the largest electric utilities in the United States and a large consumer of fossil fuels, we strive to reduce the environmental impact of our operations while providing reliable, reasonably priced electricity for our customers. Climate change remains a significant sustainability issue for AEP and one of our most challenging.”

$860,351

Anheuser-Busch

What they’ve said: “At Anheuser-Busch, we believe every one of us has a role to play in improving and protecting the environment. It’s all part of our efforts to be ‘The Best Beer Company in a Better World.'”

$593,170

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

What they’ve said: “We believe that our primary responsibility is to reduce our carbon footprint by, amongst other things, improving our energy efficiency and pursuing lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels. We recognize that climate change is not just an environmental challenge, but also one that affects the health and livelihood of millions of people because of the links to complex issues such as poverty, economic development and population growth.”

$3,270,708

AT&T

What they’ve said: “The ability to measure and understand greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is an important piece of a company’s efforts to manage its environmental impact and to illuminate associated business threats and opportunities.”

$731,655

BAE Systems

What they’ve said: “The ADF is working to integrate sustainable environmental management, including resource efficiency and pollution prevention, into Defence activities, business processes and decisions.”

$1,432,886

Bank of America

What they’ve said: “We accept the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that the impacts are already being felt. Delaying action will increase both the risks and the costs.”

$1,672,025

Boeing

What they’ve said: “Boeing believes that climate change is a serious environmental challenge that requires credible action. Recognizing this, we are committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from our facilities and products. As the global community develops approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we acknowledge that voluntary measures alone may not be enough. Consequently, we support development of mandatory, yet flexible frameworks to address emission reductions.”

$1,189,612

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp

What they’ve said: “Proposed climate change legislation is not directed toward railroads specifically, but it would have an impact. A cap-and-trade market on carbon emissions would challenge our coal shippers and our coal business, for instance. On the other hand, rail offers environmental benefits over other modes of surface transportation, as we produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions per ton-mile.”

$615,301

Capital One Financial

What they’ve said: “At Capital One, we recognize the need to monitor and be mindful of our impact on the environment. Every day, we strive to ensure that we operate our business in an environmentally sound and socially responsible manner. We also seek to raise awareness of sustainability best practices among our shareholders, consumers, associates and suppliers.”

$824,950

Caterpillar Inc

What they’ve said: “Greenhouse gas (GHG) accumulation in the atmosphere is a major concern for many in both the public and private sectors because of the potential for these gases to affect climate patterns. As a result, many governmental and intergovernmental organizations are implementing mechanisms in an attempt to reduce GHG emissions. We support intelligent, responsible public policies addressing climate and energy issues.”

$1,262,463

Chevron

What they’ve said: “At Capital One, we recognize the need to monitor and be mindful of our impact on the environment. Every day, we strive to ensure that we operate our business in an environmentally sound and socially responsible manner. We also seek to raise awareness of sustainability best practices among our shareholders, consumers, associates and suppliers.”

$1,324,163

Citigroup Inc

What they’ve said: “With a presence in more than 100 countries, Citi holds a unique position within the global community. This informs our commitment to bring forward the best solutions for our clients, while also benefiting the people and the communities where we operate. One area where we believe we have this opportunity is on environmental and climate issues, which pose a significant challenge to the world, to the global economy, and to clients and require forceful action.”

$754,251

ConocoPhillips

What they’ve said: “At ConocoPhillips _everything we do centers on our mission to power civilization. We recognize that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate. We are continuing to manage GHG emissions in our operations and to integrate climate change related activities and goals into our business planning.”

$565,775

Credit Suisse Securities

What they’ve said: “[Climate change] is a pressing issue, given that the increasing occurrence of weather-related natural events not only has environmental and social implications, but could also have a significant effect on the economy.”

$973,930

Deloitte LLP

What they’ve said: “Some forward-thinking executives are also taking a longer-term view. They understand that effective carbon management can be a cornerstone of a broader sustainability strategy to mitigate financial risk, control operating costs, and pursue growth opportunities within the U.S. and beyond. For these corporate leaders, sustainability is a core business issue _ one that’s here to stay.”

$774,360

Devon Energy

What they’ve said: “The issue of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the Earth’s climate has emerged as an issue of widespread public interest. Devon is committed to responsible environmental stewardship. We conduct our operations with a respect for the environment, and we take our environmental responsibilities seriously.”

$623,308

Eli Lilly & Co

What they’ve said: “We are committed to continually improving environmental performance across Lilly’s operations. This includes our most significant areas of environmental impact„energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use, and waste.”

$1,604,188

Ernst & Young

What they’ve said: “Modern enterprises must understand all the implications of a changing climate throughout their value chain. We help clients understand the impacts of the changing climate and develop and prioritize resiliency strategies.”

$2,058,724

Exxon Mobil

What they’ve said: “Keeping in mind the central importance of energy to economies of the world, ExxonMobil believes that it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the risks to society associated with increasing GHG emissions.”

$855,746

FirstEnergy Corp

What they’ve said: “FirstEnergy is committed to working with policymakers to develop an appropriate response, with the goal of reducing global emissions while minimizing the economic impact on our customers. A well-designed, market-based approach would be the most effective means to reduce emissions with the least economic impact.”

$1,756,457

General Electric

What they’ve said: “Expanding fossil-fuel use is leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, which threatens future development.”

$621,400

GlaxoSmithKline

What they’ve said: “GSK believes that climate change is globally significant and applauds the intentions of international agreements such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. GSK understands that to be effective such agreements need to be developed in partnership with industry. GSK is committed to developing and implementing programmes to support the intent of these agreements.”

$1,757,104

Goldman Sachs

What they’ve said: “The government can help the markets in this regard by establishing a strong policy framework that creates long-term value for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and consistently supports and incentivizes the development of new technologies that lead to a less carbon-intensive economy.”

$694,151

Halliburton Co

What they’ve said: “The company acknowledges the growing global consensus that human activity, through the use of fossil fuels, contributes to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. This is widely believed to be a contributory factor in global warming thus impacting climate change.”

$716,950

Humana Inc

What they’ve said: “We humans face a host of environmental problems that only can be solved the way they were created: by human action on a global scale. At Humana, we’re committed to doing our part to make the planet a healthier place. Through corporate policies, grassroots efforts, associate involvement, and member outreach, we work to reduce our carbon footprint and live lightly on the land.”

$597,450

International Paper

What they’ve said: “International Paper participates in climate discussions at the regional, national and international levels to encourage balanced public policies that recognize the importance of forest sustainability, the carbon neutrality of biomass, pulp and paper manufacturing jobs and international competitiveness.”

$574,590

Johnson & Johnson

What they’ve said: “As a health care company, Johnson & Johnson understands that climate change can negatively affect human health. We have taken sustained, long-term action to address our greenhouse gas emissions and we are encouraging our supply chain to do the same. We also support responsible climate and energy policy.”

$1,608,707

JPMorgan Chase & Co

What they’ve said: “We the adopting financial institutions have come together to advance a set of principles for meeting energy needs in the United States (US) that balance cost, reliability and greenhouse gas (GHG) concerns. The principles focus on a portfolio approach that includes efficiency, renewable and low carbon power sources, as well as centralized generation sources in light of concerns regarding the impact of GHG emissions while recognizing the need to provide reliable power at a reasonable cost to consumers.”

$678,421

K&L Gates

What they’ve said: “We are committed to assisting clients in a range of issues, including: Developing and implementing greenhouse gas mitigation programs worldwide; Shaping public policy and legislative responses to climate change in the United States and Asia; Carbon trading and establishment of carbon trading funds for investors [etc].”

$718,201

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance

What they’ve said: “At MassMutual, we believe our efforts to address environmental sustainability are more than just good corporate citizenship. These efforts create opportunities to reduce our operating costs which, ultimately, benefit the people who rely on us every day: our policyholders and customers. Throughout everyday business operations, we work to reduce our environmental footprint by effectively managing our facilities and the natural resources we consume.”

$572,863

McDonald’s Corp

What they’ve said: “McDonald’s Corporation, together with its subsidiaries (the Company) understands that climate change presents a global challenge with broad and far-reaching implications for generations to come. We acknowledge the findings of the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), ‘that human influence on the climate system is clear’, and ‘limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.'”

$854,364

Merck & Co

What they’ve said: “Merck supports science-based international and national actions to address the challenges presented by climate change, including economic incentives for researching, developing and deploying low-carbon and renewable-energy technologies. In addition to adding our voice to the call for action, Merck is taking our own steps to proactively reduce energy and water demand, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our operations.”

$762,609

Merrill Lynch

What they’ve said: “Our view is that going forward the predominant policy stance in developed regions will be towards curbing GHG emissions to combat global warming. Even with disagreement over the causes, (i.e. anthropogenic or natural cycle) and the consequent climatic effects, the uncertainty is such that to ignore the issue is not an option… In effect, the benefits of addressing environmental externalities are beginning to outweigh the costs, with intangible benefits a key driver.”

$1,032,610

Norfolk Southern

What they’ve said: “As a responsible corporate citizen, Norfolk Southern strives to continuously improve the way we manage potential environmental impacts of our business operations, and we are pleased that this year’s disclosure score reflects those efforts, said Blair Wimbush, NS vice president real estate and corporate sustainability officer. By the end of 2012, Norfolk Southern had accomplished nearly 69 percent of its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per revenue ton-mile between 2009 and 2014.”

$1,514,749

Northrop Grumman

What they’ve said: “Having achieved our inaugural GHG reduction goal two years ahead of plan, we initiated the planning process for our greeNG 2.0 GHG reduction goal in 2013. Our goal-setting strategy represents a balance of expectations to perform, our known ability to perform, and innovation. This strategy informed ours second GHG-reduction goal: By 2020, we are committed to reducing absolute GHG emissions 30 percent relative to 2010 GHG emissions levels.”

$1,050,635

Pfizer

What they’ve said: “As a science-based health care company, Pfizer has long recognized the risks posed by global climate change, such as more severe weather events and potential adverse impacts on human health, and has, as a precautionary step, taken significant voluntary action to reduce its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

$1,856,877

Pricewaterhouse Coopers

What they’ve said: “Business understands the concept of dealing with risk, and climate change is the mother of all risks that weÍll face this century. One thing is clear even as we wait for the detail, that the current rates of emissions reduction falls far short of what is required to decarbonise the global economy to avoid some of the dangerous impacts that the IPCC has warned.”

$783,250

UBS Americas

What they’ve said: “Climate change is one of the most significant challenges of our time. The worldÍs key environmental and social challenges, such as population growth, energy security, loss of biodiversity and access to drinking water and food are all closely intertwined with climate change. This makes the transition to a low-carbon economy vital. We recognize that financial institutions are increasingly expected to play a key role in the transition to a low-carbon economy and, we are determined to support our clients in preparing for success in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.”

$931,700

United Technologies

What they’ve said: “By reducing greenhouse gases, we’re helping to conserve natural resources, addressing concerns about climate change and lowering operating costs.”

$1,509,275

Verizon

What they’ve said: “It takes a lot of energy to power our wireline and wireless communications networks around the globe – more than 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually. In fact, with over 46,000 cell sites, 120 million square feet of real estate, and 200 data centers, carbon emissions associated with our energy use represent our principal environmental impact. That’s why for more than a decade, we have focused on improving our overall energy efficiency to reduce both our costs and our environmental footprint.”

$1,138,181

Wal-Mart Stores

What they’ve said: “Environmental sustainability has become an essential ingredient to doing business responsibly and successfully. As the world’s largest retailer, our actions have the potential to save our customers money and help ensure a better world for generations to come. At the same time, it sets the stage for a more financially stable and responsible Walmart.”

$889,024

Wellpoint Inc

What they’ve said: “We are committed to the continued growth of our company in environmentally sensitive ways. This includes minimizing our environmental impact through smart business practices and partnerships to advance green strategies, such as the ‘Plant a Forest for Me’ initiative.”

$1,378,290

Wells Fargo

What they’ve said: “We are committed to finding new ways to minimize our energy consumption, address climate change, use renewable sources, and inspire others to do the same so we can lower our impact on the planet.”

Q&A

What are you asking for with this campaign?

Forecast the Facts Action is asking for businesses to act responsibly by eliminating campaign contributions to climate change deniers. The companies that we have highlighted have made commitments on global warming–from cleaning up their own operations to supporting state, federal and international action to address the climate crisis–yet their support for the so-called “Denier Caucus” undercuts their commitments.

Our demands are that companies:

  • Align corporate policies on climate change with those on campaign funding.
  • Halt all campaign contributions to climate deniers immediately.

Has any corporation made such a commitment?

Not yet but we expect that this campaign could help to change that.

These companies all have scores of interests outside of climate change, which is why they make campaign contributions. Aren’t you asking them to diminish their influence over this one issue?

Businesses can only prosper in a safe climate. Scientists tell us that without dramatic action to reduce pollution, our world is in serious danger. Supporting politicians who obstruct action is both a moral failing and bad business.

Does this campaign undermine the great efforts that have gone on to organize the business community behind climate change policy?

No, it strengthens those efforts by forcing businesses to walk it like they talk it. We commend the great organizing that has pushed the business community to support climate action. Stripping deniers of their financial support from the business community is a natural next step and will help free up space for real action on climate change.

Is getting a commitment from businesses to stop funding climate change deniers still important with all the dark money out that’s out there?

Our political system is awash in money and we need a multitude of efforts to drain the swamp. We don’t pretend that this is the only strategy to affect climate change policy, but it’s an important one to reduce the influence of deniers in Congress, who depend on corporate money to keep their seats. If corporations say no more, the message will be sent to climate change deniers that their views are outmoded, wrong, and are no longer acceptable.

Why engage with these companies when it’s the energy sector that’s really the problem?

More than anyone else, climate polluters created this problem by funding climate misinformation and supporting candidates that will do their bidding. That’s why we need a positive lobby from the rest of the business community to push back.

Will this campaign affect the 2014 elections?

It might. Not all of the campaign contributions from the corporate sector have been made yet and this could make a difference now. But we also have an eye toward the future. Businesses can help shape elections and policy by pledging to cut off support for climate change deniers.

Your data includes corporate PAC money as well as donations from individual donors who work at those companies. Are you asking companies to control to whom their employees contribute?

No we are not, but we also know that some companies make recommendations to their employees about to whom to direct their campaign contributions. We would like that to stop for climate change deniers.