Say there's a bill you'd love to get through Congress, but the majority of Americans and the president are both opposed to letting it pass because of the damage it would do to the environment, the climate, and American jobs. Well have no fear, we have a Congress for you!
At the price tag of just a few million dollars, you too can have congressional leaders pass your agenda!
To many, this sounds like a comedic advertisement you'd find on cable TV late one night, but it's the reality that is the U.S. Congress in a post-Citizens United world.
For the past few years, Big Oil has made a concerted push to see the crude oil export ban lifted. This ban, instituted 40 years ago, has protected some of America's most wild places, prevented a significant increase in drilling operations that would damage our climate and environment, and has kept American jobs here at home. But, lifting the ban meant big business for Big Oil.
As it became clear there would be a legislative vehicle to lift the ban, Big Oil began to ramp up its donations to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC created by a former staffer for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. In the second half of 2015, the PAC took in nearly $3 million from just three oil companies: Chevron, Devon Energy Corporation, and Petrodome Energy, as well as a $50,000 check from Occidental Petroleum CEO Stephen Chazen.
Chevron, Devon, and Occidental all lobbied Congress to lift the crude oil export ban, and in December, Congress voted to do just that.
Petrodome was not registered to lobby, but its CEO, W. Ed Bosarge, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans -- many of whom voted to remove the crude oil export ban.
Senate Republicans celebrated the lifting of the crude oil export ban as if it had accomplished a major victory for American citizens, when, in reality, it was simply delivering its friend and major campaign contributor, Big Oil, its top legislative priority.
This dirty deal is a clear example of the stranglehold money has over the American government. In order to protect our environment, we need to curb the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry. While President Obama alone cannot undo Citizens United or get money out of politics, with the stroke of a pen, he can hold government contractors like Chevron accountable. By signing an executive order requiring business entities receiving federal government contracts to be forthcoming and require full disclosure of political spending, President Obama can provide some much needed and much-deserved transparency.
Senate Republicans may have set their price tag, but our democracy should never come with one.