In its cover story this week, the National Journal explores a curious phenomenon: while the science supporting climate change has only gotten stronger, the onetime Republican consensus on the issue has fallen apart. The reason, quite simply, is the right-wing polluter Koch Industries and its political front group Americans for Prosperity.
As Political Correction notes, just three years ago, Republicans including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) all expressed a belief in human-caused climate change. Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) even supported legislation to reduce carbon pollution. But all of these prominent leaders have since joined the rest of the Republican party “in a sudden and near-unified retreat to silence or denial.”
What’s changed for Republican politicians is “the influx into electoral politics of vast sums of money from energy companies and sympathetic interest groups”:
Republicans have long had close financial ties to the fossil-fuel industry, of course. Between 1998 and 2010, the oil-and-gas industry gave 75 percent of its $284 million in political contributions to Republicans. […]
Among the most influential of the new breed of so-called super PACs is the tea party group Americans for Prosperity, founded by David and Charles Koch, the principal owners of Koch Industries, a major U.S. oil conglomerate. As Koch Industries has lobbied aggressively against climate-change policy, Americans for Prosperity has spearheaded an all-fronts campaign using advertising, social media, and cross-country events aimed at electing lawmakers who will ensure that the oil industry won’t have to worry about any new regulations.
AFP President Tim Phillips proudly takes credit for the GOP’s turnaround and readily admits that his group threatened politicians with “political peril” if they “played footsie” with green solutions:
Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, says there’s no question that the influence of his group and others like it has been instrumental in the rise of Republican candidates who question or deny climate science…“We’ve made great headway. What it means for candidates on the Republican side is, if you…buy into green energy or you play footsie on this issue, you do so at your political peril. The vast majority of people who are involved in the [Republican] nominating process—the conventions and the primaries—are suspect of the science. And that’s our influence. Groups like Americans for Prosperity have done it.”
Thanks to AFP “science has become political,” Phillips says, and “most of these candidates have figured” that out. AFP used to claim, “We’re not arguing the science of climate change,” but got bolder as it gained more influence, boasting, “if we win the science argument it’s game, set, and match.” With AFP menacing lawmakers in the background, threatening to choke off campaign money and dangling their political careers in front of them, it’s no wonder so many Republicans have willfully ignored the indisputable truth of climate change.
As ThinkProgress has reported, AFP is notorious for its astroturfing, or fake grassroots efforts, that include tactics like planting carbon-copy opinion pieces in local newspapers. They’ve become the unparalleled enforcer of far right-wing ideology, funneling millions of oil and coal industry dollars cash across the nation to spread their message of global warming denial.