Boxer briefing

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Will Mother Earth become Martyr Earth? On Valentine’s Day, to avert that prospect, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced legislation to combat global climate change through the tax code. As Raju Chebium of USA Today reported:

Under the proposal, companies would pay $20 per ton of carbon or methane they emit. The tax would increase by 5.6% for each of the next 10 years. Burning coal, oil and gasoline releases carbon. Methane is the byproduct of natural gas, which is cleaner than the other fossil fuels and is coming in wide use across the USA.

Sixty percent of the revenue would go to pay monthly rebates for citizens and legal U.S. residents who are bound to face higher electric bills as utilities pass on the tax to consumers.

The rest would go toward “weatherizing” 1 million homes each year to make them more energy-efficient, increasing renewable-energy supply by setting up new wind- and solar-power projects, and creating a fund to attract private investment for clean-energy development.

Coal, oil, and natural gas producers as well as electrical utilities predictably oppose the measure. And despite his speeches about the dangers of global warming, President Obama looks unlikely to support Boxer’s proposal either. Ben Geman of The Hill reported yesterday:

Jack Lew, the White House nominee for Treasury secretary, says President Obama’s second-term vow to confront climate change will not lead to proposals to tax carbon dioxide emissions.

“The administration has not proposed a carbon tax, nor is it planning to do so,” Lew said in written responses to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on Lew’s nomination Tuesday.

Carbon taxes or fees are generating new interest among climate advocates and some liberal lawmakers, especially amid debates about how to curb the deficit and overhaul the tax code.

Lew’s answer is the latest of several Obama administration pledges not to propose a carbon tax.

“We would never propose a carbon tax, and have no intention of proposing one,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in mid-November.

Given industry opposition, it’s hardly surprising that energy corporations aren’t at the head of the line to donate to Boxer’s campaigns. Instead, as OpenSecrets.org shows, she receives significant donations from liberal issue donors, tech and media corporations, and lawyers and lobbyists.

Boxer’s top donor, giving over a million dollars since 1989, was EMILY’s List, the political action committee for pro-choice Democratic women. Other prominent, issue-oriented contributors are pro-environmental group the League of Conservation Voters (fourth) and arms control advocates the Council for a Livable World (tenth). The University of California (second) has bestowed over a quarter million on the California Senator; the State of California (seventh) and Stanford University (16th) also made generous donations.

The world’s four largest media corporations appear on Boxer’s list: Time Warner (third) gave over $200,000; Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (sixth) pitched in $122,000; Walt Disney Co. (eighth) gave $95,000; and Viacom (14th) gave $74,000.

Boxer receives more money from lawyers and law firms than any other industry, and several individual firms appear on her top twenty list, most based in her home state. These include class action kings Girardi & Keese (fifth), Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy (ninth), and Milberg LLP (11th); corporate lawyers Latham & Watkins (13th); personal injury lawyers Greene Broillet & Wheeler (15th); and general practice firm O’Melveny & Myers (18th).

Other significant donors to the California Senator are high tech businesses such as San Jose network equipment manufacturers Cisco Systems (12th), San Diego semiconductor makers Qualcomm (17th), and Japanese electronics megafirm Sony (19th). Oakland health care consortium Kaiser Permanente (20th) also made her list.

Green with Enzi

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Prepare for another heaping helping of austerity. With a little over a week left before massive cuts to the federal discretionary budget occur on March 1, prospects of a deal are looking dimmer. Democrats and Republicans in Washington, DC, seem nowhere close to agreement, and some Senators are confident none will be reached.

Dustin Bleizeffer of WyoFile reports:

While on his public “listening” tour in Wyoming Monday, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) told a small audience in Casper, “Sequestration is going to happen. The plans that are being offered won’t pass,” echoing comments made by his U.S. Senate colleague John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) on CNN Sunday.

Enzi sits on the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over taxes and entitlements, as well as the Budget Committee, which sets the broad goals for federal spending. Since his vote will be courted this week and during the battles in March and beyond, I decided to examine his top twenty donors, listed on OpenSecrets.org.

Holding a seat on the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, Enzi receives plenty of money from accountants. His top contributor, donating nearly twice as much as any other source, is auditing firm Deloitte with $61,000. Ernst & Young (12th), another of the Big Four accounting firms, gave $26,000. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (fifth) threw in $30,000, while the American Bankers Association (third) deposited $30,500.

Health insurance supremo Blue Cross Blue Shield (second) has given $31,500 to the member of the HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee member. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists gave him $25,500, and global pharmaceutical concern Abbott Laboratories (19th) injected $22,500.

As a member of the Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure, Enzi has received numerous donations from the corporations he writes regulations for. These include fuel retailers who sell at the pump, the National Association of Convenience Stores (tenth); coal and other mineral providers the National Mining Association (11th); oil and gas behemoth Exxon Mobil (15th), the world’s largest company by revenue; and Arch Coal (16th) and Foundation Coal (18th), which operate mines in Wyoming and several other states.

Also pitching in heavily to Enzi are fuel-using transportation interests such as the Union Pacific Corporation (fourth), which runs the railroad of the same name; the National Automobile Dealers Association (sixth); and package shipping specialists United Parcel Service (seventh).

Others of Enzi’s top twenty donors include the largest trade association in the US, the National Association of Realtors (eighth); telecom multinational AT&T (ninth); union shop foes the Associated Builders and Contractors (14th); the National Restaurant Association (17th); and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (20th).

They pay Jay

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Cyber-bribers and netizens take note: Congress is in session — and after President Obama plugged it in his State of the Union speech, legislation regulating the internet may soon be passed. One of the most prominent players, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), is retiring in 2014, and as Brian Fung of the National Journal reports:

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has long championed of such a measure. He was one of four cosponsors last year on a Senate cybersecurity bill—the Cybersecurity Act of 2012—that ultimately was rejected by Republicans, business groups, and privacy advocates. Rockefeller was so frustrated by the legislative defeat that he began writing letters to Fortune 500 CEOs, asking them to describe their companies’ state of cyberattack readiness.

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The bill that Lieberman and Collins proposed last year was pilloried by civil-liberties watchdogs like the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which argued its language was far too broad and opened the door to potential abuse of consumer information. Critics of the Lieberman-Collins legislation disliked provisions that put spy agencies in the lead on cybersecurity. Changes made to the bill in mid-July gave a greater role to civilian agencies, helping to ease some of those criticisms, but the bill still failed to clear the Senate.

Rockefeller’s position on the Commerce Committee has been lucrative before. Telecom multinational AT&T (third) has given the Senator $62,000 over his career, and Verizon Communications (fifth) has donated $53,000 — even though, as Ryan Singel at Wired wrote in 2007:

[P]rior to 2007, contributions to Rockefeller from company executives at AT&T and Verizon were mostly non-existent.

But that changed around the same time that the companies began lobbying Congress to grant them retroactive immunity from lawsuits seeking billions for their alleged participation in secret, warrantless surveillance programs that targeted Americans.

The Spring ’07 checks represent 86 percent of money donated to Rockefeller by Verizon employees since at least 2001.

AT&T executives discovered a fondness for Rockefeller just a month after Verizon execs did and over a three-month span, collectively made donations totaling $19,350.

Lawyers are Rockefeller’s largest source of industry funds, only outstripped by the combined totals of finance, insurance and real estate. Rockefeller’s top donor, giving nearly $66,000, was K&L Gates, lawyers and lobbyists for energy and hi-tech interests. (The Gates in the firm’s name is Microsoft founder Bill Gates’s father.) Other major contributors include Steptoe & Johnson (12th), which began its practice in Charleston in 1928; “Wall Street’s most powerful law firm”, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (18th); Chicago’s huge international law firm Kirkland & Ellis (19th); and West Virginia lawyers Bowles Rice (20th).

The Senator from coal-rich West Virginia received numerous donations from energy companies such as General Electric (seventh); Peabody Energy (11th), the largest private-sector coal company in the world; coal miners’ union the United Mine Workers of America (13th); and American Electric Power (15th), serving Appalachia and elsewhere.

Other donors with in-state connections were Forest City Enterprises (sixth), real estate developers with projects in Charleston and elsewhere; West Virginia University (eighth); and Park Corporation (ninth), which recently refurbished a $100 million automotive plant in Charleston using government loans.

Rounding out Rockefeller’s list are media mega-conglomerate Time Warner (second); airline holding company United Continental (fourth); trade group the American Hospital Association (tenth); accounting giant Ernst & Young (14th); Delta Air Lines (16th); and soda leviathan PepsiCo (17th).

Graham backers

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Will Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continue his support of immigration reform? Or will he reverse himself on that as he did on climate change legislation? His opposition to the nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, which he reiterated today, may offer a few clues. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake of the Washington Post comment:

While there’s no doubt that Graham does genuinely believe that the administration has not been forthcoming regarding what actually happened in Benghazi, there’s also more going here that better explains — and contextualizes — his approach to the Hagel and Brennan confirmations.

Remember that Graham is up for reelection in 2014 and has been, for the better part of his first term, someone whom conservatives have viewed skeptically — particularly regarding his support for comprehensive immigration reform (Lindsey Graham-nesty!) and his comments on climate change.

He changed his tune on climate change years ago, however. Senator Graham, who has long had a close relationship with the coal sector, switched sides in 2010 to oppose a climate change bill he helped write that would have capped carbon emissions, recanting:

“I think they’ve oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they’ve been alarmist and the science is in question,” Graham told reporters. “The whole movement has taken a giant step backward.”

And speaking of energy industries, he’s quite cozy with nuclear companies too, as Josh Israel reported last May:

A Graham spokesman reiterated Graham’s longstanding support for the nuclear industry — noting that he’s been called “the #1 pro-nuclear member” of the Senate — but did not address the industry’s campaign contributions. “Senator Graham has long pushed for a renaissance in nuclear energy. We are ecstatic that the NRC go-ahead was finally secured,” Graham’s communications director told ThinkProgress. SCANA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ties between these donations and the Senator’s efforts on the company’s behalf.

Indeed, SCANA, a Cayce, South Carolina, public utility holding company, is Graham’s largest contributor, giving just under $170,000; EnergySolutions, a nuclear waste disposal company with a site in Barnwell County, ranks fourth. Other major donors invested in energy production and distribution include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (tenth); Atlanta-based, coal-burning providers of electricity Southern Company (11th); telecom and energy corporation IDT (12th); Carolinas energy producers Duke Energy (17th); and mining, construction and energy firm Washington Group International (20th).

Several of the top contributors to the Judiciary Committee member are South Carolina law firms; the legal sector has given him nearly three million bucks over his career, making them his single largest source of funding. His second largest individual donor is Columbia’s law and lobbying firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, while Spartanburg litigators Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins comes in 15th and trial lawyers’ lobby the American Association for Justice 18th. Other local donors are Spartanburg plastics/textile corporation Milliken & Company (fifth) and Columbia shopping center developers Edens & Avant (14th).

Further significant contributors to Graham include health insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield (third); engineering and construction firm Fluor Corporation (sixth); mega-media conglomerate Time Warner (seventh); telecom corporation BellSouth (eighth), which services South Carolina among other states; firearms advocates the National Rifle Association (ninth); defense contractors Lockheed Martin (13th); the sixth-largest firm in the US, multinational General Electric (16th); and telecom behemoth AT&T (19th).

More open immigration laws are popular with many business leaders, who see new immigrants as lower-wage employees and prefer hiring them legally. Stricter laws are generally favored by Graham’s voters, however, who see new workers as competitors for jobs. As the Republican primary in South Carolina approaches, it will be interesting to watch his position on immigration reform evolve.