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Russ Feingold Announces Senate Run

It may seem like the big news of the 2016 election season is that a new denier is entering the presidential race or quasi-campaigning every week. From Jeb Bush to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio, or Fiorina to Huckabee and Carson, you’ve got deniers for every day of the week. But last week, we got some different and very positive news about the upcoming campaign season: Former Wisconsin Senator—and environmental champion—Russ Feingold has announced that he’s running for a rematch against Dirty Denier Ron Johnson, who unseated him five years ago.

Johnson Is A Dirty Denier and Dirty Air Villain

ron johnson

Senator Ron Johnson is a true denier. He has a 100% record of voting against clean air in the WhoVotesDirty.com database, earning him the Dirty Air Villain title, and a mere 7% lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard. Johnson has consistently voted against action on climate change, against clean energy and in favor of the Big Polluter Agenda.

Johnson does not accept the science of climate change. His Senate website states, “Man-made global warming remains unsettled science,” despite the fact that 97% of scientists agree that recent warming is very likely due to human activities. Johnson is so far outside the mainstream that he’s even claimed sunspots are the cause of global warming.

Feingold an Environmental Champion

By comparison, Feingold earned a 95% LCV score for his eighteen years in the Senate. Feingold consistently voted in favor of environmental protection, was a leader of the opposition to Arctic drilling and voted against the Bush-Cheney energy bill.

As a Great Lakes senator, Feingold showed particular leadership of water issues. Year after year, Feingold sponsored the Clean Water Restoration Act, to preserve Clean Water Act protections for millions of miles and acres of streams and wetlands. It’s the same issue that President Obama addressed with a new Clean Water Rule just this week and that the Senate will likely try to kill soon. So far, Johnson hasn’t added his name as a cosponsor, but he’s expressed concerns about the rule and this may soon provide a stark policy contrast between the two Wisconsin politicians.

Feingold on Climate Change

When it comes to climate change, there’s a stark contrast as well. Feingold accepts the science and has consistently voted and spoken out for action.

Feingold has said “Climate change is real and we need to address it.” In 2003, Feingold sponsored so-called “4P” legislation, which would have used the Clean Air Act to reduce four pollutants at coal-fired power plants, including carbon. When the Senate was working on a comprehensive climate plan in 2009, Feingold was part of a group working constructively to ensure that states like Wisconsin—which are heavily dependent on energy-intensive manufacturing and coal-fired electric power—would reap the benefits of climate action. Feingold opposed efforts like those from Senator Lisa Murkowski that would have undone EPA’s endangerment finding and stopped efforts to address carbon pollution, saying “the Murkowski resolution would have stalled our march toward energy independence through more efficient vehicles, alternative fuels and renewable energy, all of which can spur new American jobs.”

With Wisconsin predicted to suffer a wide range of climate impacts on its agriculture and forestry industries, on its coastal and urban communities, and on human health for residents, the state needs a leader who will work to act on climate.

Wisconsin-Style Leadership

Feingold understands that he’s following in the footsteps of one of the greatest environmentalists in American history. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, was from Wisconsin. On April 21, 2010, Feingold took to the Senate floor to celebrate Nelson and the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. He spoke of carrying forward Nelson’s legacy in addressing climate change, the challenge that “looms largest of all.” Feingold said:

If we do this right, we have an opportunity to pass legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create energy jobs here in America. We can help American businesses gain a competitive advantage developing new renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

The desire to protect our air, our water, and our planet will bring people together tomorrow, all around the world. They will talk about global issues we face and the local environmental issues in their communities that they want to address. They will organize, mobilize, and galvanize new momentum for change.

The U.S. Senate needs leadership on climate change. It needs people to come together. Russ Feingold understands that reality.

Jeb’s Climate Dodgeball

If you’ve ever seen the movie Dodgeball, starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughan, then you’ll know the rules guiding Jeb Bush’s still-undeclared campaign when it comes to climate change: “Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.”

I’m guessing that somewhere a team of pollsters, strategists and PR experts got paid a lot of money to craft every word of Jeb’s latest dodge on climate change so that he could avoid the “denier” label. In nearly identical remarks at a house party in New Hampshire and in an interview in Iowa, he gave his position on the human contribution to climate change. In both cases, he started by acknowledging that “the climate is changing” but went on to say that “I don’t think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted.” He continued by calling it “intellectual arrogance” to say the science is decided.

Jeb surely knows that two-thirds of voters, including nearly half of Republicans surveyed, are more likely to vote for a candidate who acknowledges human-induced global warming is happening. It seems to me that Jeb is trying to carefully calculate precisely how much lip service must be given to climate change to make it seem that he’s not extreme, not a denier. But, voters who care about climate change shouldn’t be fooled.

To be sure, there is still much to learn.  There are plenty of opportunities for new scientific discoveries about the surprising and subtle ways that climate change is endangering our health and disrupting the natural systems on which our food and water supplies, our livelihoods, and our safety depend.

But anyone who still questions whether unlimited carbon pollution is causing dangerous climate change is still practicing climate denial and confusion.  And that is what Jeb is doing.

According to NASA, “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.” Jeb’s carefully crafted talking points are just a fancy dodgeball move calculated to confuse the voters, rather than accept the massive scientific consensus that we must act urgently.

Jeb has been in the denial business for a while now.  In a 2009 Esquire interview, Bush said “I’m a skeptic. I’m not a scientist.” In a 2011 Fox News interview, he said “It is not unanimous among scientists that it [climate change] is disproportionately manmade.”

In April, he said he was “concerned” about climate change, but, at the same time, he dismissed the need for action. Duck! Don’t get caught saying you want to act!

Dodging the “Denier” Label

What exactly is it that Jeb’s dodging? I think he is trying to escape the “denier” label. He has constructed an extreme strawman in an effort to seem moderate. He addressed the word “denier” in this most recent interview, mocking those (like me, I suppose) who use the word, by saying, “If you don’t march to their beat perfectly then you’re a denier. … You have to agree with people 100% of the time or you’re as bad as someone who disagrees with you completely.

Well, Jeb, you don’t need to agree me 100% of the time. I’d love to debate with you about the best approaches to limiting carbon pollution. But if you consistently voice doubts about the scientific consensus for action and clearly oppose making the carbon pollution cuts we need to avert the largest environmental crisis of our time, then, yes, that absolutely makes you a climate denier in my book. If you deny the problem and deny the need to act, you’re a denier. No dodging.

Sen Capito’s Polluter Protection Act

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the two new co-sponsors, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), to the bill on May 20th, 2015. 

Last week, a team of Senators supported by nearly $36 million in contributions from dirty polluters—and who have voted in favor of polluters over people 98 percent of the time—teed up yet another proposal to block much-needed efforts to protect the health of children and future generations from dangerous carbon pollution.

This newest pro-polluter proposal comes from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) who introduced a bill that aims to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan by thrusting “multiple knives into the Clean Air Act,” as my colleague David Doniger explains.

The Clean Power Plan sets the first ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants and invests in clean energy sources and energy efficiency, while Sen. Capito’s bill protects the big polluters and lets them off the hook by:

  • Rubbing out the Clean Power Plan altogether. The bill simply declares that the Clean Power Plan and its first-ever limits on carbon pollution “shall be of no force or effect, and shall be treated as though the rules had never been issued.” With admirable directness, the EPA proposals are simply disappeared. But that isn’t enough for Capito and her cronies. The bill also protects polluters by:
  • Blocking the EPA’s proposed standard for new coal power plants while also effectively blocking EPA’s plans to regulate existing plants too.
  • Forcing the EPA to choose between carbon standards and mercury standards, making them “pick their poison.”
  • Tying up the Clean Power Plan with litigation for years, placing an unprecedented “stop work” order found nowhere else in the nation’s environmental or regulatory laws.
  • Destroying the EPA’s authority to take action to protect our families and communities if states fail to act on their own by letting Governors “opt out,” and letting polluters off the hook.

And who else has their hands on the proverbial knife? Thirty other U.S. Senators joined Senator Capito to support these extremist attacks on public health.

We took a look at the records of Senator Capito and her bill’s co-sponsors using our website WhoVotesDirty.com, which tracks polluter contributions to members of Congress and their votes. Here’s what we found:

  • Combined, the Senators backing Capito’s bill have taken $35,672,306 from polluters for their election campaigns.
    • Among the top three recipients of polluter contributions among these Senators are Senator Mitch McConnell who has been flailing away at the carbon standards for months now, and Senator Jim “the Snowball” Inhofe who has promised to make this bill a central focus of his Senate Committee in the coming weeks.
    • On average, each Senator has received nearly $1.3 million from dirty polluters each.
  • Combined, these Senators have cast 470 dirty votes on 49 pieces of climate and clean air legislation and/or amendments in Congress since September 2011.
  • These Senators have voted dirty 98 percent of the time they’ve had to choose between protecting polluters or public health.

Among other dirty bills, these lawmakers voted to block public health safeguards many, many times, to block all efforts to cut carbon pollution, to undermine science, and to block funding for climate change research.

Sen. Capito and her bill’s supporters aren’t looking out for the American public—they’re looking out for the Big Polluter Agenda and their own campaign coffers.

Americans want to carbon to be regulated. Poll after poll shows that that a bipartisan majority—70 percent of Americans—support the federal government limiting greenhouse gases from existing power plants, and 70 percent also support requiring states to limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in their borders (check out the most recent poll from the Washington Post.)

But these Senators think they can get away with taking dirty money from the deep-pocketed polluters and voting against clean air and protecting. They think their voters won’t notice them voting against the very policies Americans support.

You can help shine a spotlight on those lawmakers who are voting against the best interests of their constituents by going to WhoVotesDirty.com and tweeting at the Dirty Air Villains. Tell them to reject the Big Polluter Agenda and listen to the American people.

Co-Sponsors / Sponsor Dirty Money Number of Dirty Votes Percent of Dirty Votes
$5,378,412 15 100%
John Cornyn [R-TX] $3,814,138 15 100%
Mitch McConnell [R-KY] $3,229,136 15 100%
Jim Inhofe [R-OK] $2,207,770 15 100%
David Vitter [R-LA] $1,866,136 9 100%
Ted Cruz [R-TX] $1,530,696 15 100%
Roy Blunt [R-MO] $1,486,800 15 100%
Pat Roberts [R-KS] $1,479,406 36 100%
Bill Cassidy [R-LA] $1,432,970 14 93%
Lisa Murkowski [R-AK] $1,370,624 14 100%
John Thune [R-SD] $1,298,822 38 100%
Shelley Capito [R-WV] $1,210,252 15 100%
Roger Wicker [R-MS] $1,108,122 11 73%
Lamar Alexander [R-TN] $1,093,632 15 100%
John Barrasso [R-WY] $1,024,366 15 100%
Michael Enzi [R-WY] $979,610 25 100%
Tom Cotton [R-AR] $965,964 25 100%
Steve Daines [R-MT] $626,916 15 100%
Daniel Coats [R-IN] $625,198 15 100%
Michael Crapo [R-ID] $611,674 15 100%
John Hoeven [R-ND] $521,028 15 100%
Johnny Isakson [R-GA] $512,500 12 80%
Joe Manchin [D-WV] $379,100 15 100%
James Risch [R-ID] $266,904 15 100%
John Boozman [R-AR] $235,890 15 100%
Rand Paul [R-KY] $212,640 10 100%
Deb Fischer [R-NE] $50,900 9 100%
David Perdue [R-GA] $50,900 9 100%
Mike Rounds [R-SD] $50,900 9 100%
Thom Tillis [R-NC] $50,900 9 100%
Dan Sullivan [R-AK]


*NRDC Action Fund policy experts identify the votes that have the greatest impact or potential to impact clean air and climate policy. Members who vote against clean air 80 percent or more of the time are considered “Dirty Air Villains.” Those who vote to strengthen protections 80 percent or more of the time are considered “Clean Air Heroes.” All other members have no assigned status, but their dirty and clean percentages are listed

.

Three New Deniers Want to Be President

The 2016 presidential race is officially heating up with three new Dirty Deniers entering the contest last week. While there are differences among the three — Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson — on policy and style, they each hold views on climate change and clean energy that make them ill-prepared to win or govern from the White House.

Let’s take a look these three new contenders’ views on climate change and clean energy.

Mike Huckabee

On climate change, the views of Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, have shifted over time. And not in a good way. Back in 2007, Huckabee addressed an audience in New Hampshire and supported “cap and trade of carbon emissions,” citing “our responsibility to fix” climate change.

By 2010, Huckabee was walking back his previous support for cap and trade, saying he’d only ever supported “voluntary cap and trade” and that mandatory programs were a “bad idea.” Now, Huckabee says the science on climate change has proved to be inaccurate while making inaccurate statements of his own, claiming, for example, that Icelandic volcanoes are a greater carbon pollution problem than fossil fuels.

Huckabee has gone so far as to belittle concern about climate change, glibly quipping that the consequences amount to nothing worse than a “sunburn.”

Huckabee’s traction with evangelical Christians is one of his strongest assets, which makes his stance on climate change all the more disappointing. When Huckabee spoke out in support of climate change in 2007, he made the moral argument for action. I’ve written before about what it means to be a climate Christian, and in Mike Huckabee we have someone who may be missing the messages from both the Creator and the voters.

Carly Fiorina

California businesswoman Carly Fiorina deserves a bit of credit. As recently as February she stated, “There is a lot of consensus among the scientists that climate change is real and human activity contributes to it.” That’s more than we can say for many of her peers in the Republican field.

However, while Fiorina may not deny the science, she is still denying the need to act. At the same event in February, Fiorina opposed regulation and said that no one nation could address climate change on its own. Fiorina’s cowardly opposition to government action is nothing new. When she ran against climate change champion Barbara Boxer for Senate in 2010, this blog wrote that:

Fiorina has gained notoriety for flippantly calling global warming “the weather” in a campaign ad, and for doubting the overwhelming science of global warming. Not surprisingly, Fiorina also opposes legislation like the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES). Passed by the U.S. House in 2009, ACES was the first comprehensive clean energy and climate bill to ever pass a chamber of Congress. On her website, Fiorina cites a biased report from the Heritage Foundation claiming that climate legislation will “cost American families $2,872 every year.” Furthermore, she claims that a climate bill “will punish manufacturers and small-business owners and put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage with nations like China and India.” She has even sided with dirty Texas oil companies to favor passing Proposition 23, which would overturn California’s climate law – the strongest such law in the nation.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last five years. Fiorina is still denouncing the Golden State’s leadership on climate change, despite California’s huge job growth while it has been working to reduce carbon pollution. With California’s clean energy jobs growing ten times as quickly as jobs in the overall economic sector, action on climate change is actually driving the economy forward, not holding it back. If Fiorina’s strength is supposed to be her business acumen, it looks like she still has a lot to learn about what will power our country’s future economic growth.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, can’t claim that he’s not a scientist. But despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that humans are contributing, Carson says, “We may be warming. We may be cooling.” He says we should “find the most eco-friendly ways of developing our energy resources.” When the world’s energy authorities tell us we need to triple our investment in clean energy innovation, that’s not even close to being good enough.

Ill-Suited for the White House

Every corner of our country and globe will feel the effects of climate change— heat waves, heavy downpours, sea level rise, increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, drought, declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities — the list goes on and on.

We know voters are more concerned than these candidates: two-thirds of voters, including nearly half of Republicans surveyed, are more likely to vote for a candidate who says human-induced global warming is happening.

Climate change is no laughing matter, but let’s hope that by this time next year the American electorate will have laughed off the candidacies of anyone with who denies the science or the need to act in the face of a global crisis. America needs a president who will act decisively to address climate change. Any candidate who believes otherwise should head home.

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