Tom Borelli

Last week’s Senate debate over Lieberman-Warner – the America’s Climate Security Act – brought to national attention an under-recognized yet rising threat to liberty and limited government: corporate America. Several of the largest corporations worked with environmental special interest groups and left-wing politicians to pass so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation to address global warming concerns.

By pushing for the legislation, these companies hoped to get revenue in the form of government subsidies plus accolades from the media for taking measures to “save the planet.” Never mind the impact on the everyday citizen, who pays for it all with higher taxes and increased energy prices, a loss of liberty, a reduced standard of living and fewer consumer choices.

Companies seeking government subsidies and tax breaks to enhance profits is not a new phenomenon. What is different is the formation of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) coalition, which combines the muscle of corporate money from disparate industries with the influence of environmental special interest groups. This coalition is an order of magnitude more powerful than individual companies looking for corporate pork. This is especially important since the bill would have created, according to the Wall Street Journal, "the most extensive government reorganization of the American economy since the 1930s."

The alliance between companies and the Left is an outgrowth of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement, in which left-wing shareholders and special interest groups target companies to win the hearts and minds of CEOs.

The Corporate Social Responsibility movement is using climate change as a barometer to measure the “corporate responsibility” of a company. Companies who adopt the notion that man’s activity causes global warming are deemed “responsible” and given a reprieve from protests, shareholder proposals and negative publicity.

Moreover, companies that join activists in pursuing global warming-related regulations are promised a “seat at the table” to help shape legislation, while companies that resist climate change alarmism are punished.

As the social and political momentum has grown for legislative action to combat climate change, companies have developed business strategies based on government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Companies with weak leaders and poor stock performance seem especially vulnerable to the temptations of the Left.

GE provides a case in point. GE’s share price has fallen during CEO Jeff Immelt’s seven-year reign. Now Immelt seeks the visible hand of government to guarantee revenue and, perhaps, protect his job.

Tom Borelli

Tom Borelli, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow with FreedomWorks.

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