Last week, we mocked the fossil fuel industry’s use of an outlet it owns to brag about perverting democracy--but we didn’t actually call out the politicians in the industry’s pocket.
Lucky for us, the Center for American Progress Action Fund did just that this week. A new analysis from CAP tallies up the climate deniers in the 116th Congress. As it turns out, there are a lot: 150.
But that’s actually an improvement from last year, when there were 180. Of those 180, 47 are no longer serving: 22 were defeated in 2018, 16 retired, five resigned, and four went to other positions. This may explain why the industry was so keen last week to assert the influence their money has. As it turns out, taking the cash may actually be a bad move for a candidate, since fossil-fuel funded candidates lost 30 seats in the 2018 elections (not factoring in the myriad of other factors at play, of course).
And make no mistake--it is the fossil fuel industry that demands denial, not average Americans. CAP Action Fund cites polling that shows a majority of Americans, including Republicans, know that climate change is real, that it is making weather more extreme, and that we should take action to reduce fossil fuel use. Exact numbers obviously depend on the poll, but by and large it’s safe to say that a majority of all Americans, including some 55% to 66% of Republicans, support various types of climate action, including the policies in the Green New Deal.
What drives politicians to take positions opposed by the majority of people who vote for them? Well, money, of course. That’s why the report comes with a nifty interactive that shows you how many of each state’s members of Congress are in denial, as well as how much money they’ve received directly from the fossil fuel industry.
Mitch McConnell and Jim Inhofe top the list at $3 million and $2 million in dirty money over their careers, while the lifetime average among the 150 deniers is a scant $455,731--which certainly sounds low. But that doesn’t include money spent on outside PACs and support.
The Kochs, for example, planned to spend $400 million on the 2018 election. That doesn’t include the additional money the Kochs spend bankrolling fake news operations like the Daily Caller. And even that’s hardly the only fossil fuel propaganda outlet! For example, there’s the Western Wire, where two of their writers, who also work as public relations strategists representing Exxon, recently posed as reporters to try and get information about one of the Exxon cases.
It’s this echo chamber, made up of fossil fuel and far-right blogs and websites posing as journalism, that gives elected deniers the perception that climate denial is legitimate, and not an obvious indication that the politician’s position regarding humanity’s ability to survive on this planet is up for sale.
Which just leaves us wondering which is going to run out first: the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying and campaigning budget, or our planetary carbon budget?