Politics are the same at any level – brutal. Whether it is fighting over the presidency, climate policy, or how long something can stay in the work refrigerator, there are always people influencing policy and manipulating opinions to suit their needs.
The difference is usually just the amount of money and/or people needed to manipulate the situation. When it comes to the work fridge, it might only be the leadership of two (obviously important people) who get decide the policy that dictates behavior. However, when it comes to broader political issues, the number of levers that can be pulled have become endless – and sometimes so is the money involved. One thing is for sure though: almost every issue has someone trying to manipulate it.
For instance, domestic climate policy is currently under attack by both foreign countries (the Russians and Chinese at least) and homegrown political activists, notably Michael Bloomberg.
The Russian bear’s 21st century roar back into power has been fueled greatly by its, well, fuel. The Russians don’t like the competition that hydraulic fracking has created – and they certainly don’t worry about the same environmental restrictions we’ve put upon ourselves – so they are dumping money into the system to stop it.
Congressional investigators have identified the San Francisco-based Sea Change Foundation as a major conduit of Russian financial support for U.S. environmental groups. The “paperless money trail” that flows from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government into a shell company in Bermuda and from there into the Sea Change Foundation has been the subject of several reports from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
It isn’t just that one organization though. Russian money is suspected of flowing into many groups that are active in areas from Pennsylvania to the midwest and elsewhere. The investments by these foreign countries into advocacy in the U.S. make sense – if you are viewing it from their point of view. They are scared to compete with the U.S. But, just like the influence and chaos that Russia attempted to inject in the U.S. elections, this manipulation of public sentiment and possibly public policy is worrisome.
Then there is the work of Michael Bloomberg. Money from Bloomberg has been flowing into a non-profit group, which then places people in the offices of state attorneys general to do Bloomberg’s bidding on the ever-evolving, ever-changing science of climate change – namely suing companies, using the law enforcement powers of the attorneys general offices. This devious scheme was unearthed by Christopher C. Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who wrote:
Privately funded “special assistant attorneys general” (SAAGs) are presently working in at least six jurisdictions, under agreements that they focus on matters of importance to the billionaire donor paying their salary and benefits and regularly report back on their activities.
The donor is Michael Bloomberg, and his interest is “climate change.”
This is the equivalent of activists hijacking, or at least renting out, our law enforcement system.
The mass manipulation of the public policy debate around climate change is troubling to say the least, and it should trouble both sides of the debate. First, this meddling undermines the efforts of people who truly want to pass climate legislation that is respected. Second, the renting of law enforcement can go both ways and assuredly will once the method is discovered (and it has been discovered). Third, the undisclosed foreign interference in domestic issues is problematic and creates more chaos and distrust within our system.
Like food that has gone bad in the company refrigerator, someone needs to do something. Lines need to be drawn and covert advocacy, whether domestic or foreign, must be investigated. Oversight bodies should bring these actions into the light.
Again, politics is brutal, but if an office refrigerator can function, we can also figure this out – we just might need to throw out the bad.
Charles Sauer (@CharlesSauer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor, and for an academic think tank. Charles is also author of Profit Motive: What Drives the Things We Do.