Coal Industry Spending Freely to Influece Congress


The coal industry is in the middle of a massive $40 million campaign to make sure that Congress, the presidential candidates, and the American people get to know that black rock in their stockings a little better – and to keep politicians from doing anything to threaten the burning of said unwelcome stocking guest in coal-fired power plants. If you’ve paid attention to the presidential race you probably noticed that a number of the debates were sponsored by a coal front group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices and that those debates did not dare to feature a single question about global warming. CNN received $5 million dollars from the group. I’d say they got a good bang for their buck.

Facing a bruising fight over climate change, the coal industry is on the political offensive this election year to ensure that no matter who wins in November, so does coal.

Billions of dollars in corporate profits are at stake for the companies that mine, ship and burn the nation’s most abundant domestic fuel.

The group expects to spend some $40 million this year. That’s more than double its spending in 2007.

With 59 coal power plants scrapped last year, the industry is fighting to make sure it can emerge from the climate change debate with a guaranteed spot in the nation’s energy future. Even as critics call for shuttering coal plants, the industry is shopping new uses for the fuel, such as converting it into synthetic diesel and jet fuel through a proposed group of coal-to-liquids plants.

Now I know that these industry shops have to disclose their lobbying, you can view ABECs disclosures here, but why don’t they have to disclose all of their efforts to influence legislation through PR, advertising, and general marketing campaigns. How is this any less important to the outcomes of legislation than the direct lobbying of members of Congress?

As politicians rely on public perceptions, through polling and other devices, to gauge their constituents views on issues it seems crucial to understand how those with business in Washington are trying to influence our perceptions that then get related to our elected representatives.

Now maybe these guys file a 990 somewhere and I can’t find it, but I’m pretty sure that these lobby and front groups do not disclose their efforts to lobby the American people and change perceptions (or maintain them). That’s not cool.