The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has always been a bully for Big Business. But never like it is now. The chamber plans to spend up to $75 million this campaign season, almost all of it to attack candidates who’ve supported climate legislation or health care reform or financial regulation, initiatives that have been vigorously opposed by chamber members. And now, the chamber is an attack dog that no longer has to reveal who’s feeding it.

Sneaky attacks: The U.S. Supreme Court took care of that earlier this year with its decision allowing corporations to help pay for “issue” advertising by non-profit groups while remaining anonymous. So far this campaign, according to a report in Friday’s The New York Times, more than 90 percent of the ads produced by the chamber either attack the positions of Democratic candidates or support those of their Republican opponents. As the Times’ article points out:

The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

So handsomely that the chamber’s budget has gone up more than 50 percent since 2003. It allocates $144 million alone to lobbying, making it the biggest lobbyist in Washington.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

And in other green news:

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

Winter takes all: Scientists now believe that warmer temperatures in the Arctic helped to cause the heavy snows on the East Coast and in northern Europe last winter. They also think that the Great North isn’t likely to get its Arctic mojo back any time soon. [Reuters]

Thar she’ll blow: NOAA’s predicting more extreme weather this winter, only this time it’s likely to hit the Pacific Northwest instead of the East Coast. The upside is that the agency’s also predicting stronger winds, which should keep turbines turning.  [NOAA]

Corn in the USA: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was out promoting biofuels yesterday, but he also continued to carry water for the ethanol industry, urging Congress to extend its tax credits. That prompted this response from the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Daniel Lashof: 

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

While Secretary Vilsack embraced a vision for transitioning from corn ethanol towards the newer, cleaner, advanced biofuels we need, when it came to concrete policy he signaled administration support for an extension of wasteful corn ethanol subsidies and a flawed biomass program, and praised EPA’s wrong decision to allow even more corn ethanol to be blended into our fuel supply.

[The Hill]

In other words, let’s think this through: Delegates at a U.N. convention in Japan are considering a proposal to place a moratorium on geoengineering until “there is adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks.” [Climatewire]

Come on in, the water’s fine: Now that the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf is over, Chevron’s the first to plunge back into the water, moving ahead with a plan to spend $7.5 billion to develop two giant underwater fields. [The New York Times]

Chill, baby, chill: Sarah Palin is turning Facebook into her own Little Red Book of quotations. Her latest pearl:  

Please don’t elect politicians who cast votes that lock up our plentiful supplies … Drill, baby, drill and mine, baby, mine.’ Yep, the mantra may be mocked by the Democrats, but serious consequences ensue when we let the Left make us rely on foreign countries to feed us energy. The joke is on us if they win.

See more of her wisdom. 

It’s nature’s way: Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck, of Colorado, was out campaigning with the Duke of Denial, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, when he gushed:  

Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on.

Buck later backpedaled on that “greatest hoax that had been perpetrated” thing, saying that he does, after all, believe global warming is occurring, but that it’s a natural thing. [Denver Post]

Bill on board: Bill Gates has joined the crowd fighting Proposition 23 in California. He’s kicked in $700,000. Maplight has the updated list of contributors, both for and against. 

Land’s end: The U.N. reports that each year farmland the size of Italy is lost to environmental degradation, industrialization, and urbanization. [AFP]

Give trees a chance: Go plant a tree this weekend. New research shows they eat pollution better than expected. [Discovery News]