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Dark Money Is Destroying Our World, Not Just Our Politics

'Unsurprisingly to anyone who follows the policy agenda of this right-wing think tank that has been funded by some of the most regressive funders in the nation, from the Koch Brothers to Scaife Foundations, they support the economic interests of corporations, and little in the way of real opportunity for the American public.' (Image: Public domain)

Once again, dark money ruled on Election Day 2014 when a slew of die-hard reactionaries swept into office, their victories clinched by donations from a small group of selfish big money donors. These wealthy funders seem to believe they can hide behind the gates of their fancy estates and not experience the adverse effects of global climate change or the consequences of the other regressive policies they promote. So how did these radicals, who are out of touch with the values of most Americans, spend their second week of the 114th Congress? Rubbing elbows with one another and the other sycophants that feed at the trough of dirty money.

I’m talking about the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action’s 2015 Conservative Summit, “Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None,” the perfect setting for a love fest of extremists that included a number of House and Senate members. Speaking on their frightening agenda for energy, the House budget, trade and other matters, the name of the game for the current Congress is DEFENSE.

Claiming they want to do what’s best for American workers and families, these are the same diehards fighting any increase in the minimum wage and acting as if Obamacare is a product of socialism. Heritage Foundation President and former Senator Jim DeMint went so far as to claim that conservatives are the “true progressives.” In an Orwellian moment he opined, “It may shock you to hear, but the Congressmen and Senators you’ll hear from today are the real progressives in Washington. They’re fighting against the status quo, committing to ending business as usual in Washington and showing Americans how we can progress to a better future.”

Unsurprisingly to anyone who follows the policy agenda of this right-wing think tank that has been funded by some of the most regressive funders in the nation, from the Koch Brothers to Scaife Foundations, they support the economic interests of corporations, and little in the way of real opportunity for the American public. My personal favorite was when Representative Tom Price, Chair of the House Budget Committee, spoke on budget objectives for the new Congress and made reference to the corporate tax rate stating, “We all talk a lot about how the corporate tax rate ought to be decreased, I’m a 0 percent corporate tax rate guy.”

Now it’s hard to imagine a more idiotic idea. Just who is to pay for the many needs of a large nation like ours, from crumbling infrastructure to the salary of people like Congressman Price? I guess it’s all those American families they purport to support. It’s really wearying to hear about how corporations “pay too many taxes.” In reality, few companies actually pay the statutory rate because of tax loopholes and subsidies tucked into the tax code. Many of America’s largest and most profitable companies pay no taxes at all, according to a 2014 study by Citizens for Tax Justice.


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While the minions of the rich and powerful moan about corporate taxes, the American public continues to live through decades of stagnant wage growth and little increase in purchasing power, while corporate profits continue to increase. The “opportunity for all” that was bandied about in this crowd should come with the disclaimer that it is actually “trickle-down opportunity.”

Unsurprisingly, at a conference supported by an organization that shills for the fossil fuel industry, the energy panel, headed by Rep. Jeff Duncan, promoted opening up federal lands to oil and gas exploration and production – prohibiting the designation of new wilderness areas that could conflict with natural resource development, preventing the Endangered Species Act from interfering with oil and gas exploration and production and passing the Keystone KL pipeline, among many other initiatives heavily reliant on continued fossil fuel development. As anyone informed about the global climate crisis knows, none of these tactics will create lasting job opportunities or serve the best interests of future generations. Scorched earth is a pretty crummy inheritance.

The panel featured the usual dribble about the “excellent economic opportunities” for working Americans like those in North Dakota. No mention was made of the boom and bust economy that fossil fuel development brings or the empty promises that have left many communities with poisoned water, poor health and dire social consequences.

And of course, any conference held by the Heritage Foundation would wax poetic about the “great potential” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for bringing “significant opportunities.” But for whom? Like the trade agreements in the past that sent jobs overseas and compromised health and safety at home, the TPP would lead to more of the same: pressure to frack for shale gas, increasing potentially unsafe seafood imports and privatization of our municipal water systems and our food safety inspection system. It will harm hard working American families, not help them. Only corporations stand to benefit from this secret trade deal that is about off-shoring our health and safety.

The policies promoted at the conference are bad deals for people and the environment. Let’s work together today to stop their dangerous agenda and begin organizing for the future to get Dark Money out of politics.

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Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.

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