Exposing ExxonMobil, Part II

The Washington Legal Foundation is typical of the corporate front groups paid millions of dollars by Exxon and other polluting industries to generate junk science on climate change.
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Last week the release of the IPCC Report by the world's 2500 top climatologists closed the scientific debate on global warming once and for all with a grave warning about its apocalyptical consequences to human civilization.

ExxonMobil Corporation reacted by publishing a paid advertisement on the New York Times Op-Ed page and a recent comment on Huffington Post announcing "Plan B." After years of denial the oil giant finally acknowledged the role of fossil fuel emissions in global warming, pledged to stop funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the country's most visible global warming denier, and boasted of its own efforts to deal with the catastrophic impacts of climate change. But behind the scenes, Exxon was engaged in the same old mischief. The American Enterprise Institute, a corporate front group financed by ExxonMobil and staffed by Bush administration dead enders, sent letters to top scientists and economists in the United States, Great Britain and elsewhere, offering them $10,000 each plus expenses for articles explaining shortcomings in the report. Exxon has funded the AEI with over $1.6 million. The Vice Chair of its Board of Trustees is former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond. Over 20 of its staffers have worked for the Bush White House.

And AEI is only one of at least forty other ExxonMobil funded groups that specialize in global warming skepticism. These include the Washington Legal Foundation, which published its own New York Times advertorial two days after Exxon's piece, dissing environmentalists "who claim that burning any fossil fuel contributes to global warming." Washington Legal Foundation is typical of the corporate front groups paid millions of dollars by Exxon and other polluting industries to generate junk science on climate change.

WLF's advisory board is a who's who of energy and chemical industry lobbyists and right wing extremists with close connections to the Bush White House. Former board members include King Coal lobbyists Haley Barbour (Chair, Bush for President Campaign Advisory Committee, 2000) and Gale Norton (former Secretary of Interior). WLF runs interference for Exxon and its chemical and carbon cronies with public relations campaigns and pro-industry lawsuits funded with tax-deductible dollars from the nation's biggest polluters.

For example, WLF filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1997, urging the court to overturn the $5 billion punitive damage award against Exxon Corp. in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. On November 7, 2001, an appeals court panel issued a unanimous decision adopting many of WLF's arguments, overturned the punitive damage award and remanded the case to trial court. After two further appeals by Exxon, on December 22, 2006 the Ninth Circuit judges reduced the $5 billion damage award by half.

On October 10, 2005, WLF filed a brief in Aguilar v. ExxonMobil Corp. in the California Supreme Court, opposing workers who had sued the company, arguing that solvent chemicals in their workplace caused their cancers.

WLF and its Founder, Chairman and General Counsel David Popeo have made a cottage industry of shilling for big polluters. WLF received $185,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005. During the same period, Popeo's group received over a million dollars from Philip Morris and the Tobacco Institute. WLF worked off the debt running ads condemning scientific findings of the human health impacts of tobacco and toxic chemicals as "junk science."

While the WLF claims to be a free-market advocate, it is the opposite--an advocate for corporate welfare and an apologist for polluters. ExxonMobil and its Board are scoundrels for using public money to finance these deceptions.

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