August 26, 2020

Whitehouse, Colleagues Unveil Key Climate Report Featuring Chapter on Dark Money Obstruction of Climate Action

Report offers solutions to counter the fossil fuel industry’s carefully-honed influence campaign

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined Chairman Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and members of Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis to release a comprehensive report titled “The Case for Climate Action: Building a Clean Economy for the American People.” The report offers a path forward for climate action in Congress, including a chapter to address the fossil fuel industry’s dark money influence campaign blocking action on climate change.

[Read the full report here; read the dark money chapter here]

“This report charts a smart path forward for climate action in Congress. It includes the vital first step of exposing the fossil fuel industry’s decades-old covert operation to scuttle meaningful climate legislation,” said Senator Whitehouse. “To move forward on major climate bills, we’ll need to execute on that recommendation. It also lays out a bold plan to slash carbon pollution, create jobs and greater equity across our economy, and avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Thank you to Chairman Schatz for his leadership. I’m proud to have been a part of this effort.”

“Our committee stitched together a political coalition across demographic, geographic, and ideological boundaries,” said Senator Schatz. “We don’t have to keep losing on climate – the work we’ve done shows that we can unite Americans and finally get this done.”

Over the course of decades, fossil fuel corporations have spent billions of dollars – much of it anonymous funding channeled through secretive front groups – in a carefully orchestrated effort to kill all comprehensive legislation to address climate change, the senators write in the report. Whitehouse and his colleagues lay out a strategy to neutralize the fossil fuel industry’s dark money influence campaign:

• Expose the role of the fossil fuel billionaires, executives, and corporations in funding and organizing the groups trafficking in climate denial and obstruction.

• Reform federal laws and regulations to require greater transparency and reduce the influence of money, particularly dark money, in politics.

• Alert industries that support climate action to the depth, nature, and success of the covert fossil fuel political scheme.

Giant corporations – from Big Tobacco to lead paint manufacturers to Big Oil – have used secret channels of influence to block action to protect the public from the harms caused by their products. Scientists, activists, and watchdog groups have tracked those corporate misinformation campaigns, including how anonymous funding of corporate front groups and trade associations can be exposed and neutralized.

In a hearing last October led by Whitehouse, the Special Committee hosted leading economists, academic experts, and top watchdog groups to discuss the research on dark money climate obstruction and what lessons can be learned from past efforts to combat corporate deceit, including how amenable dark money is to congressional oversight.

The Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, which is affiliated with the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, was established in March 2019 and was tasked with investigating, holding hearings, and issuing findings on the economic and national security consequences of climate change and how climate action presents significant opportunities for jobs, public health, and the economy. Since March 2019, the committee held 10 public hearings, convened 10 in-depth meetings with experts, and connected with a broad array of constituencies – in person and through targeted outreach. The report released today draws on that body of work.

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921