No sooner had Mitt Romney wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination than environmental groups began alerting the public to the threat they believe he represents. Last week four environmental groups—the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Clean Water Action and Environment America—collectively endorsed President Obama. It was the first time that those groups had come together to make a candidate endorsement.
They were moved to do so, and quite early in the process, because Romney is heavily backed by the enemies of environmental regulation. Energy companies and the rich tycoons who own them have begun pouring money into Republican causes for the 2012 cycle and are expected to give considerably more before November. And Romney is returning the favor with policy promises.
In 2011 the oil and gas industry gave Romney $899,630 according to the Center for Responsive Politics, far more than they gave to President Obama. They were Romney’s eleventh-most-supportive industry, whereas they did not rank among President Obama’s top twenty. More money will surely fill his coffers this year since Rick Perry is no longer in the race.
But the real money supporting Romney is the largesse he will enjoy through unlimited donations to Super PACs. Back in October Politico reported, “The billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch plan to steer more than $200 million—potentially much more—to conservative groups ahead of Election Day.” The term “industrialist” does not fully capture the Kochs’ intense personal interest in opposing environmental regulations. The bulk of their fortune comes from refining and distributing products such as petroleum, chemicals and fertilizers. Their libertarian ideology seems to revolve primarily around keeping the government from doing anything that would protect the public interest over their profit margins.
Allies of Romney and the Kochs are already putting their money to work attacking Obama. According to Think Progress, “In the first three-and-a-half months of 2012, groups including Americans for Prosperity, American Petroleum Institute, Crossroads GPS and American Energy Alliance have spent $16,750,000 on energy attack ads.
Romney opposes President Obama’s proposal to eliminate billions of dollars worth of subsidies for oil companies in the tax code. Romney justifies this by saying he is against all tax increases and that it is “dangerous” to single out one industry for losing its special favors. This, of course, blatantly contradicts Romney’s own proposals, and Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, both of which claim to be revenue neutral by slashing tax rates but paying for it by eliminating tax expenditures. Romney and Ryan don’t specify which tax expenditures they will eliminate, although Romney recently suggested the mortgage interest deduction for second homes might be one. By his logic, he was calling for a “dangerous” tax increase then. This is, at least, one rare subject where Romney can claim to be consistent. He supported continuing tax breaks for oil back in the 2008 campaign as well.