Top European Polluters Attempt to Influence US Elections


Seal of the United States Senate.

Image via Wikipedia

October 25th 2010:

Some of Europe’s biggest industrial polluters are being accused of “climate sabotage on a global scale”, according to an investigation by Climate Action Network Europe.

These wealthy companies have been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the political campaigns of US Senate candidates who oppose action against climate change in what appears to be a co-ordinated attempt to influence election results.

The group, which includes BP, BASF and Bayer, comprises some of Europe’s top industrial emitters of carbon dioxide, yet they are almost exclusively supporting US candidates who deny the existence of global warming, oppose emissions reductions and Barack Obama’s energy agenda, and refute scientific consensus that climate change is occurring as a result of humanity’s actions.

The Climate Action Network Europe (CANE) investigation found that almost 80% of the donations made by the European companies were targeted towards senators blocking climate change legislation, amounting to a total of $240,200. These senators have been strategically targeted by the group due to their attempts at blocking legislation or their denial of climate change/global warming arguments. Simultaneously, these powerful firms are lobbying in Europe to prevent action against climate change in the EU. The CANE investigation infers that these companies are using “inaction in the US” as an argument against any action being taken in the EU. However, it now appears that these very same companies are supporting inaction in the US and indeed financing “key players in the US political arena responsible for this inaction”, the report continues. For example, the inaction in the US is cited as being one of the main reasons that agreements failed in Copenhagen.

It is becoming clear that a strategic and systemic stream of financial support is flowing from wealthy European businesses to key US candidates for a specific political and economic agenda. Europe’s biggest industrial polluters are ensuring that United States climate and energy policies reflect their best interests, by financially backing Senate candidates who are opposed to action against climate change. On the other side of the waters, however, these same companies are attempting to influence EU policies and are lobbying against “aggressive emissions reductions in Europe”. As such, it is no surprise that CANE describes this as “climate sabotage on a global scale”.

Donations of large sums of money to political campaigns and parties by wealthy individuals and companies has been a contentious issue for decades. Often it is the political party with the most funding that wins an election, with the “poorer” parties suffering the most. For example, in the run-up to the UK general election 2010, the Conservative government received £7,317,601.74 in donations over £7,500 according to figures published by the Electoral Commission. This was the sum of 171 donations. The Labour Party, in comparison, received “only” £5,283,198.85 from 38 donations, with the Liberal Democrats trailing behind with a mere £724,000 from 20 donations. The interesting point to note is the number of seats won by each party, which directly correlates to the amount of campaign funding each party received – in descending order, Conservatives: 307 seats, Labour: 258 seats, Lib Dems: 57 seats. Whilst this is not conclusive evidence, it serves to illustrate how there is often a correlation between party funding and election results. When powerful corporations donate to political campaigns there is usually a higher agenda, as the CANE report has uncovered.

This co-ordinated attempt to influence America’s mid-terms is detrimental to democracy itself, as it could lead to the wealthiest candidates emerging as the victors, fulfilling the aims of the powerful European companies and disregarding those campaigning for emission reduction targets. The most damaging aspect is that the co-ordinated effort is not limited to the US but is also occurring in Europe.

This is not the first nor the last time that corporate interests attempt to affect and influence political outcomes. Indeed, the interest in the current US midterms is not limited to European companies either, and a report by ThinkProgress has tracked donations from several oil, coal and electricity companies from India and the Middle East. The very organisations that are affected by climate and energy policies are fighting back, attempting to influence global policies the only way they know – financially.

[The CANE report uses information from a publicly accessible database on OpenSecrets.org]


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