US mid-term polluted by corporate funding for right wing

BP and several other major ­European companies are funding the mid-term election campaigns of right-wing Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda, the Guardian has learned.

An analysis of campaign finance by Climate Action Network Europe (Cane) found that nearly 80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change.

These included incumbents embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, and the notorious climate change denier, James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.

The report used information on the Open database to track what it called a coordinated attempt by some of Europe’s ­biggest polluters to influence the United States mid-terms.

“The European companies are funding almost exclusively Senate candidates who have been outspoken in their opposition to comprehensive climate policy in the US and candidates who actively deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by people,” the Cane report said.

Hijacking of the mid-terms
Obama and Democrats have accused corporate interests and anonymous donors of trying to hijack the mid-terms by funnelling money to the Chamber of Commerce and conservative Tea Party groups. The Chamber of Commerce reportedly has raised $75-million for pro-business, mainly Republican candidates.

“Here in California, oil companies and the other special interests are spending millions on a campaign to gut clean-air standards and clean-energy standards, jeopardising the health and prosperity of this state,” Obama told a rally in California.

Much speculation has focused on Karl Rove, the mastermind of George Bush’s election victories, who has raised $15-million for Republican candidates since September through a new organisation, American Crossroads.

An NBC report warned that Rove was spearheading an effort to inject $250-million in television advertising for Republican candidates in the final days before the November 2 poll.

On CBS television’s Face the Nation, Rove accused Democrats of using the same tactics in 2008. “The president of the US had no problem at all when the Democrats did this,” he said. “It was not a threat to democracy when it helped him get elected.”

The Cane report said the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240 200 to senators who blocked action on global warming. The figure tops the $217 000 Tea Party bankrollers David and Charles Koch have donated to Senate campaigns, the report noted.

The biggest single donor was German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108 100 to senators. BP made $25 000 in campaign donations, of which $18 000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change.

Recipients of the European campaign donations include some of the Senate’s biggest climate deniers, such as Inhofe, who has called ­global warming a hoax.

Foreign corporate interest in the US’s mid-terms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. —

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday