Since 2008, two major shifts have occurred in American politics: The amount of money being spent to influence elections has boomed, and Republicans have stopped believing in climate change. While we can't blame the former entirely for the latter -- after all, Republicans oppose anything President Obama supports -- it would be naive to think these two developments are purely coincidental. Fossil fuel industry magnates donate heavily to Republicans and to political action committees spending on their behalf. More of that money means more incentive for Republicans to ignore the scientific consensus on climate change.
Between 2008 and 2012, independent expenditures -- meaning money spent on campaigns by outside groups, which can get unlimited donations -- for House and Senate races increased tenfold, from $46 million to $445 million. For that you can thank the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which removed limits on corporate expenditures to influence elections.
Big donors who have strong opinions about climate and energy issues tend to want less regulation and less environmental protection. Think oil, gas, and coal companies and their executives. The Koch brothers alone directed some $400 million to affect the 2012 election. (This figure includes presidential, congressional, state, and local races, plus money spent by Koch-sponsored groups, not just the Kochs’ personal and corporate contributions.) The oil and gas industries keep pouring more and more money into elections. In 2012, they gave $73.1 million, including $16.5 million in outside expenditures, up from $39 million in 2008.
This spending dwarfs that of clean energy advocates and climate hawks. In September of 2012, The New York Times estimated that “spending on television ads promoting coal and more oil and gas drilling or criticizing clean energy has exceeded $153 million this year ... nearly four times the $41 million spent by clean-energy advocates, the Obama campaign and Democratic groups to defend the president’s energy record or raise concerns about global warming and air pollution.”
Now environmental groups are beginning to push back. The Washington Post reports on their latest effort: