Thursday, June 28, 2012

An investigation with election & enviro (maybe) impact

A news story with major implications in this presidential election year--and possible environmental implications, too--is on the launch pad with its engines just starting to rumble. 

New York State's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reportedly is examining state and national tax-exempt organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, following claims of fraudulent transfers of money used for lobbying and political campaigns.

The Times Union reports today that: 

"New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued subpoenas to unidentified organizations including executives at a foundation affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce. Schneiderman seeks emails, bank records and other data, according to the people familiar with the inquiry who spoke on condition of anonymity because the attorney general hasn't publicly announced the inquiry.
"Schneiderman is investigating claims that tax-exempt organizations are influencing elections, while not being required to disclose donors. Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about powerful groups with large amounts of money from anonymous donors influencing the presidential race."
News of the investigation first appeared on June 26 in the New York Times which reported:  
"The investigation is also looking at connections between the chamber’s foundation, the National Chamber Foundation, and another philanthropy, the Starr Foundation, which made large grants to the chamber foundation in 2003 and 2004. During the same period, the National Chamber Foundation lent the chamber $18 million, most of it for what was described as a capital campaign.  
"In a complaint filed last year with the attorney general, watchdog groups asserted that the loan had been used to finance lobbying for “tort reform” legislation in Congress and to run issue advertising in the 2004 presidential and Congressional campaigns, most of it against Democrats."
The Times story noted that: 
"Mr. Schneiderman’s investigation is the first significant one in years into the rapidly growing use of tax-exempt groups to move money into politics. The biggest such groups, including Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which was founded by Karl Rove and other Republican strategists, are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year on issue advertisements against candidates to sway the outcome of the presidential and Congressional elections. "
Americans for Prosperity has been active in numerous environmental issues at both the national and state level. 

In New Jersey, the organization has campaigned against the state's participation in the regional greenhouse compact, RGGI. It also opposes state funding for offshore wind energy development. Governor Chris Christie has severed the state's ties with RGGI but supports offshore wind farms.
In Pennsylvania, it has supported the coal industry by fighting tighter federal greenhouse gas emissions standards for new power plants.

In New York, AFP is pushing for the state to drop its participation in RGGI.

What's your reaction to the news of the investigation? Use the comment box below. If one isn't visible, click on the tiny 'comments' line. 

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