My latest at WashingtonExaminer.com.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wants Congress and the Biden administration to investigate the Trump administration for “climate corruption.”
“I am confident that a good, hard look at communications between fossil fuel interests and people who had duties to discharge in government will reveal that they failed in their duties because of pressure and inducements from the fossil fuel industry,” the Rhode Island Democrat said in a recent interview.
Whitehouse told E&E News that corruption cases would hinge on a quid pro quo, “such as [a] promise that they would be taken care of in the future.”
“When you’re as big and complicated and sophisticated as the fossil fuel sector, you don’t show up like some mope with a bag full of cash looking for a favor,” said Whitehouse.
It’s an interesting point of view from a politician who has his own mysterious background in political contributions and quid pro quo. More on that later.
But if Whitehouse plans to crusade against political contributions or other potential quid pro quo from businesses looking out for their own interests, there’s no need to look darkly through the past. He can search the present.
First, there is President Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Between 2019 and 2020, Yellen earned $7.5 million in speaking fees from Wall Street interests. I’m sure what Yellen had to say was riveting, but was it really worth $7.5 million? Or was it the access to her and the obligations to them that they purchased? It’s so hard to know for sure. Maybe Whitehouse could investigate.
Yellen has said that climate will be a central feature of her tenure at the Treasury Department. Coincidentally, Wall Street is also heavily interested and invested in climate. Before Yellen joined the Biden administration, she belonged to a corporate lobby group advocating for a carbon tax from which they would profit. Both would be good things for Whitehouse to scrutinize.
Then, there is Biden, who promised to spend $2 trillion of taxpayer money advancing his climate agenda, including plenty of cash for electric vehicles, wind, solar, and other allegedly “green” technology.
In 2017, the wind and solar industry received $11.6 billion in taxpayer subsidies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. No doubt hoping to improve on that tidy sum, the industry contributed $11.1 million to Democrats, including Biden, in 2020. The especially interesting angle here for Whitehouse to investigate is the legality of using taxpayer subsidies to lobby for more taxpayer subsidies.
Getting back to Whitehouse, he has refused to answer questions about political contributions and a potential quid pro quo involving himself and a green energy firm called Utilidata.
Whitehouse is also known to be worried considerably about so-called “dark money” in politics. Dark money involves a contribution bundled by groups, sometimes to obscure donor identities.
One such dark money group is a super PAC associated with the League of Conservation Voters and related groups. That super PAC planned to spend $100 million to elect Biden and other Democrats in 2020. What do the PAC’s mysterious donors hope to get? What, if any, deals were made and obscured? There is obviously a lot to scrutinize.
Last September, Whitehouse appeared as a witness at a House Judiciary subcommittee meeting on dark money in politics. While he raged about dark money contributions to Republicans and conservatives, Whitehouse steadfastly refused to answer any questions about various sources of dark money financing his campaigns, including the billion-dollar Arabella Fund.
As noted in a Wall Street Journal editorial, “Mr. Whitehouse’s silence about his own ties to dark-money networks shows his goal isn’t to clean up politics. He wants to silence those who disagree with him.”
Which brings us back to climate. Whitehouse is no dummy. He knows that political contributions are not bribes. But he would like to shut down fossil fuel industry contributions to Republicans. And if he can intimidate the fossil fuel industry and other conservative donors by tarring their contributions as bribes, he is happy to do so.
Meantime, it would be interesting to see if Whitehouse could discover what Yellen had to say that so intrigued Wall Street.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com, served on President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, and is the author of Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA (Bench Press, 2016).
February 17, 2021 at 05:26PM