Friday, October 9, 2009

National Taxpayers Union: Big Tobacco Apologists Shift to Clean Energy Attacks

When you follow the clean energy and climate debate as closely as we do here at R?S?, you hear quite a bit of heated (and inaccurate) rhetoric. So it takes quite a lot to truly shock us.

But that's exactly what happened when we read The Hill this morning, finding such an entirely over-the-top, foaming-at-the-mouth editorial by Pete Sepp with the National Taxpayers Union that we really had to re-consider our belief that we've seen everything. The whole piece is worth a read for its absurdity, but we'll give you the bottom line, according to Sepp:

When most in Washington are focusing on the health care debate, we would be foolish to forget about the other looming nightmare for taxpayers across America: cap-and-trade, more appropriately termed the National Energy Tax. The latest example of this is the Boxer-Kerry bill entitled the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act,” which if passed would condemn taxpayers to poverty and the American economy to oblivion.
Beyond repeating the proven lie that the clean energy and climate bill would cost American households $1,761 a year, Sepp really takes it to a whole new level with his doomsday sermon of condemnation and economic "oblivion."

Intrigued by Sepp's clear bid to steal the crown from our current King of the Climate Crazies, we dug a little deeper to figure out exactly where he's coming from on this issue. Turns out, the National Taxpayers Union once defended Big Tobacco with the same chutzpah as their defense of Big Oil today.

It's a journey that took us all the way back to the 1970s, when the tobacco industry faced a growing threat to its business-as-usual practices (like marketing to children) that were lining their pockets while creating a public health disaster in America. With a growing number of health professionals and policymakers pushing for regulations on where and how tobacco could be marketed and consumed, Big Tobacco pursued a strategy that should strike followers of the current clean energy debate as eerily familiar:

1. Deny and attack the science showing that smoking is a major health hazard.
2. Fund lobbying groups and think tanks that will then release statements and studies about the health hazards of tobacco.
3. When those statements and studies come out, point to them and say "Look! This proves everything we've been saying in our own defense!"

Besides trying to muddy the waters by spreading false information, another constant in the campaign against regulating Big Tobacco has been the National Taxpayers Union, a lobbying group and think tank that fought taxes and restrictions on the sale of tobacco products tooth and nail. According to documents that are now part of the public record as part of numerous court cases against Philip Morris International (PMI), the company funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Taxpayers Union to develop the group as a "strategic vehicle" for pushing its anti-regulation agenda for Big Tobacco.

So what does any of this have to do with the clean energy and climate debate, you ask? Among the NTU's major corporate supporters now -- to the tune of $50,000 a year -- is ExxonMobil, according to the company's own site. That would be the same ExxonMobil that has invested heavily in support of a misinformation campaign designed to spread lies and fear about the clean energy and climate bill.

Sound familiar? Essentially, the National Taxpayers Union is now doing for Big Oil what it did for Big Tobacco: spreading lies and misinformation to stop reform and keep corporate wrongdoers from paying their fair share to clean up the mess they've created.

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