The general public may not have the right to know about “dark money” corporate donations to candidates and causes, but the bankruptcy court does – and what happens during bankruptcy is part of the public record. A recent bankruptcy filing by a major coal company reveals how it was funneling money to help Republicans takeover Congress in 2014, and support a massive propaganda campaign intended to mislead the public about the realities of carbon emissions and climate change.
For those unclear on the concept, “dark money” is that which is donated to “non-profit” organizations. Because of their non-profit status, these organizations are not legally obligated to disclose the names of their donors. However, they can receive unlimited amounts of money, and use those funds to bribe lawmakers as well as provide financial backing for political campaigns and organizations such as “think tanks.” These organizations spent $174 million last year in order to tighten GOP control over the legislature. A great deal of that money ultimately came from huge corporations such as Alpha Natural Resources (ANR), a major coal mining and production company that filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy earlier this month.
One of ANR’s beneficiaries is attorney Christopher Horner, author of Red Hot Lies – How Global Warning Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed. In December 2009, Horner told CNN that climate scientists were “cooking the data” and falsifying results. Calling the proverbial kettle black, Horner added: “we’d have to perform brain surgery on these people, but the fact is scientists are people too, and they’re subject to every human motivation, including tremendous… and increasing amounts of taxpayer funding, which increases with the alarm, as well as ideology.”
Horner acknowledged that the use of coal and other fossil fuels have environmental consequences. Nonetheless, in an appalling display of circular logic, he stated,
[W]hat you want to do is leave the world wealthier to deal with something … If you want to clean up the air, we have regimes in place for that. If you want to tighten them, we do that during economically vibrant times and only wealthy economies do it…if you want to chase CO2, sulfur dioxide or mercury emissions, the most expensive, least efficient way to do it is as a co-benefit of trying to ration carbon dioxide emissions…Economists will all tell you that, and I’m sure other scientists would agree. The fact is, wealthier is healthier is cleaner… you’re not going to clean up the environment by chasing CO2.
In other words, let ANR and Exxon-Mobil and the rest of them poison the air, foul the water, taint the soil and destroy entire biomes – as long as they are allowed to make astronomical profits, they’ll have the financial resources to clean up the mess they made in the first place.
To paraphrase a line from a classic Mel Brooks film, Horner uses his tongue prettier than a million-dollar biostitute – which is exactly what he is. And, by channeling all that dark money through its networks of “non-profit” organizations, ANR was able to buy plenty more just like him. Those biostitutes now lurk in the halls of Congress and continue to spout their lies on Faux Snooze.
Organizations that have received ANR donations include the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which bought the senate election for Mitch McConnell in 2014, Charles Koch’s Institute for Energy “Research,” a lobbying group that fights against environmental laws and clean energy initiatives, and the blatantly corporatist US Chamber of Commerce, which spent in excess of $35 million on behalf of right-wing candidates in last year’s elections. ANR was also a member of the National Mining Association, which channeled nearly $4 million to anti-environmental candidates and causes from its members in the 2012 election alone.
Of course, ANR didn’t use its wealth to clean up anything. And now, taxpayers in states like Wyoming are wondering what’s going to happen. Under the US Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, ANR had once qualified for “self-bonding,” a way to insure itself against environmental liability by putting up company assets as collateral against environmental cleanup costs. Recently, however, ANR was unable to meet those qualifications. In May, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality gave the company 90 days to come up with $411 million in order to cover reclamation costs on two mining operations. Now that ANR is in bankruptcy, it’s anyone’s guess at this point how much Wyoming and other states will be getting to pay for those cleanups – if anything.
ANR and companies like it somehow want us to believe that if they are simply free to maximize their profits by any means, regardless of the environmental costs, they’ll have all the money they need to clean up their own messes. Tell that to the people of Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.