The Plot Thickens: Far-Right Group Joins Chorus for Keystone XL

Last week Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced a bill (S. 2041) that would give Congress the authority to approve the controversial transcontinental Keystone XL pipeline, without the President's approval. Forty-four Republicans and three Democrats signed on as co-sponsors.

According to MapLight, which analyzes industry campaign contributions to members of Congress, one of the top 12 funders supporting Hoeven's bill is the John Birch Society, a conspiracy-minded network that led Red-baiting campaigns in the 1950s, organized against the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and recently has raised its ugly head to crush collective bargaining in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

The John Birch Society is what you might call "the businessman's Klan" -- more polite, less violent -- and has long been linked to oil companies and far-right political agendas.

Why is the JBS interested in this climate-killing pipeline?

Because the fight happening in Congress over the Keystone XL has taken a turn. It is no long about the tipping point of climate change or jobs, energy security or the Ogallala Aquifer. It's about crushing the power of the executive office -- especially when that power is in the hands of a black man.

Since the triumph of democratic social forces after the height of the civil rights movement, JBS has been casting about for new enemies. President Obama is an easy target -- but so are environmentalists.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch publication, JBS has done as much or more than any other group on the radical right to foster panic over a set of international principles aimed at addressing resource depletion -- especially oil.

JBS "has held more than a dozen conferences across of the nation in the last six months to sound the alarm," wrote Ryan Lenz this week. JBS is once again fighting "the new world order" only this time it's in the form of UN environmental resolutions and a newly invigorated grassroots environmental movement in the U.S. that is flexing its populist muscles.

The "sunshine" group MapLight additionally reports that all but five of the senators who support the pipeline have the oil and gas industry among their top contributors. In fact, 19 of the top 20 recipients of campaign contributions connected to the oil and gas industry co-sponsored the bill.

It is no surprise the John Birch Society is showing its face on this issue. It has long given moral and pseudo-religious cover for White Anglo Saxon Protestant corporate control of the political process -- whether local or national.

For those of us in the long-term struggle to advance a democratic America where all human dignity is protected and where we don't foul our own nest (or allows others to do so), we expect push-back. We aren't afraid of it. We don't despair over it.

As civil rights historian Vincent Harding puts it, "That's the nature of struggle. One side pushes and the other side pushes back."

Millions have rallied alongside President Obama's decision to deny TransCanada the Keystone XL permit. We understand the stakes. If the Alberta Tar Sands are opened and the pipeline goes through then, according to leading climate scientists, processing that unconventional tar sand sludge will push climate change into an irreversible spiral.

The John Birch Society has lots of money. But it is made up of human beings who want to enjoy the fruits of the earth for a long time to come. I invite them to join the winning side in the movement to care for creation with justice, humility, and equity as we move into our common future.

I also remind them: We know their history -- and ours -- and we're not afraid to speak it abroad in the land.