During last Tuesday's Green News Report, we briefly discussed the U.S. Senate "all nighter" on climate change, where 28 Democrats and 1 Republican (Inhofe, the GOP's "Denier-in-Chief" who stuck around long enough to mock the effort) stayed up all night making speeches calling for climate change action in hopes of drawing attention to the issue.
We mocked it ourselves a bit, suggesting that Democrats might have carried out such a stunt during the day, instead of in the middle of the night when most people were asleep, if they really wanted folks to notice. In the meantime, our friend Kenny Pick of Turn Up the Night has been slogging through CSPAN's 17-hour video posting of the session and sends us a clip that caught his eye.
In it, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-sponsor along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the Senate #Up4Climate event, focuses a laser light on the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2010 Citizens United decision as a turning point --- a very bad one --- for climate change denialism, specifically on the flip-flopping by Republicans on an issue they actually did once appear to care about...
Whitehouse has tied the lack of Congressional action on climate change to Citizens United in previous climate-related speeches. He has been making weekly climate change speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate for years now.
"Congress is peculiarly gridlocked because of the evils of Citizens United. Our failure to address climate change is a symptom of things gone wrong in our democracy," Whitehouse said in opening one such speech in late February.
In those remarks, he went on to describe the SCOTUS decision as "one of the worst and most disgraceful decisions ever made by the Supreme Court. Destined," he said, to end up on the "ash heap of judicial infamy."
"But, we're stuck with it now," he added.
This week, during the U.S. Senate's all-nighter for action on global warming, Whitehouse returned to the theme and sharpened his critique, citing how fallout from the ruling resulted in specific, high-profile U.S. House and Senate Republicans who once called for legislative action to curb greenhouse gasses --- some even going so far as to sponsor such bills --- suddenly flip-flopping to become climate change deniers, just after the devastating impacts of the Citizens United case became clear in 2010...
[NOTE: It's almost impossible to isolate the specific clip in CSPAN's 17-hour video. It's at the 11:26:55 mark, if you'd like to try. But here's the audio, about 2 minutes long, courtesy of Kenny Pick, and the text transcript of Whitehouse's remarks. We've added the specific names of the Senators he's referring to.]
WHITEHOUSE: I mentioned earlier how we have a former Republican Presidential candidate [John McCain] who campaigned on climate change, how we have a Republican Senator who was a co-sponsor on a climate fee bill [Lindsey Graham], how we have a Republican Senator who voted for Waxman-Markey when he was in the House [Mark Kirk], how we have Republican Senators who have spoken for a carbon fee.
All of that happened before 2010. What happened in 2010 that drove every Republican back underground on this issue?
I'll tell you what happened. The United States Supreme Court decided a case called Citizens United. And the instant they decided Citizens United, the Koch Brothers and the big polluters put enormous amounts of money into elections.
And they didn't just put the money into elections between Republicans and Democrats --- they put money into elections between Republicans and Republicans. They went into primary elections. And they went after Republicans who were not consistent with their orthodoxy on climate change. Unless you were a denier, they either punished you, or threatened you.
And since that time, that's why there's been silence on the Republican side.
It's not because there's not a tradition of Republicans caring about the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was established by a Republican president [Richard Nixon]. Theodore Roosevelt was our greatest conservationist. There is a Republican tradition of this. There's a Republican tradition of standing up to the big money and sticking up for regular people.
But not since Citizens United. Not since that baleful decision cast an absolute avalanche of dark money --- of unlimited money and anonymous money --- into the elections.
- Desi Doyen contributed to this report.