President Obama and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) have found big business to be a crucial ally in their quest for a national cap-and-trade law to limit carbon emissions.
Corporate backing greatly enhances the global warming bill’s prospects of passing, but it also reveals a key feature of Obama’s political strategy: a new era of special interest politics in which major corporations work in concert with liberal politicians and advocacy groups to advance the left-wing agenda.
Obama already is using the power and prestige of his office to drive cap-and-trade. In February, through an executive order, he created the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) to provide “an independent voice on economic issues.”
In reality, PERAB will serve as a platform to trumpet business support for Obama’s energy policy. For instance, following its first meeting on May 20, PERAB circulated a memorandum endorsing cap-and-trade as “…the most important step in a coherent strategy for curtailing emissions.”
In an interview prior to the board’s first meeting, Austan Goolsbee, staff director for PERAB, acknowledged the critical role that business will play in achieving Obama’s goals by saying, “Here’s a case where government policy with the private sector working together is the only way that it really can get done.”
Not surprisingly, Obama picked CEOs such as Jeff Immelt of GE and Jim Owens of Caterpillar – executives who already had made a commitment to pursue cap-and-trade legislation – to participate in PERAB.
Immelt and Owens also are members of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition comprised of over twenty corporations and environmental activist organizations that is actively lobbying for cap-and-trade legislation.
In addition, Obama added liberal advocacy groups to PERAB. The panel has strong labor union representation through Richard L. Trumka, who is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and Anna Burger, who chairs Change to Win, which is a labor federation representing seven unions and their six million workers. Burger also is an executive with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Meanwhile, in Congress, the rapid progress of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454) – a cap-and-trade bill – can be attributed to the lobbying push of major corporations.
Ironically, it’s corporate America that allowed Waxman, a noted critic of industry practices, to keep his promise to move his global warming bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee by Memorial Day.