Some of you might recall that back in July, I ran a piece criticizing Newt Gingrich’s “Drill here. Drill now. Pay Less.” campaign. Since then, a number of people have had the opportunity to dig into the people supporting his supposedly non-partisan 527 group American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF). The result is that we now know who’s supporting this supposedly non-partisan group, and they’re a thoroughly Republican and highly partisan bunch.
Last week, Grist ran, with permission, an amazing investigative piece by Marianne Lavelle of the Center for Public Integrity, Mixing oil and politics is formula for Newt’s ‘Solutions’. Simply put, what Lavelle discovered was that the drilling campaign has propelled ASWF into third place in total fundraising for 527s, behind only the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and America Votes. She did not find, however, that ASWF was funded by the usual suspects, in this case companies and individuals with ties to oil giants like ExxonMobil, Conoco-Philips, etc. Instead, the main donors of unregulated money too ASWF are actually billionaire conservatives, and the only energy company in the top 40 donors is Peabody Coal (and Fred Palmer, Peabody’s senior VP for Government Relations).
UPDATE: Brad at The Wonk Room ran a series back in late July/early August about ASWF and its connections to Bush Pioneers (the largest bundlers of Bush campaign cash) and McCain donors. He’s got good information on several more of the Bush billionaires for ASWF and McCain’s change from opposing OCS drilling to his present “Drill, baby! Drill!” stance. Or you can get yourself some hot cocoa and settle in for an hour to read everything Brad’s written on the topic by clicking here.
This raises a couple of interesting questions. First, why aren’t there oil companies directly supporting ASWF? Gingrich has a proven track record of being able to deliver on big political themes (such as the Contract with America) – you’d think that oil companies would be clamboring to support ASWF. The main reason I can think of is that they’re concerned that direct support would tarnish ASWF’s coveted “non-partisan” and “outsider” status. But the donor list already includes one of the first Swift Boat supporters, Crow Holdings (chaired by big Republican benefactor Harlan Crow and donor of $100,000 to the Swift Vets group – has also donated another $102,000 to Republican PACs and candidates this election cycle). Carl Lindner III alone has given about $154,000 to Republican candidates and Republican Party election committees (such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Leadership Circle PAC, and the Republican National Committee), and his wife has given about as much. Richard Farmer, founder of Cintas and resident of Cincinnati, has given another $81,000 to Republican committees and candidates, including $5,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky, ostensibly to help keep Republican control over Kentucky. Shelden G. Adelson, the single largest donor to ASWF, has also donated another $81,000 to Republican candidates and committees.
Interestingly enough, every donor I looked closely at had donated the maximum amount of money they were legally allowed to certain candidates outside of their home states and districts, with Minnesota’s Norm Coleman as the single greatest beneficiary of their generosity.
How exactly does being funded almost exclusively by billionaire Republicans who are bankrolling the candidacies of a number of vulnerable Republican candidates make the ASWF a “non-partisan” group?
Second, why is Peabody Coal the only energy company putting money into ASWF? Frankly, I don’t know. I know that The Wonk Room at Think Progress (associated with the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress Action Fund) thinks that ASWF is a front for coal. And the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to dispute that Peabody Coal wouldn’t be supporting ASWF if they didn’t think they’d get something in return for their support. But again, it’s not like all Peabody’s the largest donor – they’re just the largest corporate donor. I’d expect that ASWF would be funded deeply by energy companies given the group’s hard-line support of drilling, shale development, and climate-unfriendly “solutions” to our energy problems in general, but most of the supporters aren’t energy related.
Anyone who wanted ASWF to appear untainted by partisanship has failed. But too few people have the time and energy to dive deep into who the donors to groups are, so most regular voters will probably be sucked in by the false claims of non-partisanship that ASWF makes. Drill here, drill now, pay less is a lie, but it’s a lie that people want to believe, and having the allegedly post-partisan Gingrich running a bogus non-partisan 527 hasn’t helped. It’s up to groups with media heft like Think Progress, 1Sky, Archetecture 2030 and Green Jobs Now, to name just a few, to publicly and loudly oppose Gingrich’s lies.
All donation data is from OpenSecrets.org.