Getting politicians to bend policy to your company’s will is a fine art – requiring a combination of charm, dogged persistence, threats and bushels of cash. But corporate lobbyists know just which buttons to press in order to get politicians to stuff human rights, public health and the dear old environment – and put business interests first.
Much as they shrink from the limelight, we feel they deserve a bit of exposure. So here’s why we think these 10 lobby groups have earned their place in the hall of shame.
Brewing denial: Big oil
Koch Industries likes to describe itself as the biggest company you’ve never heard of – but the US oil corp couldn’t escape the headlines in 2010 after revelations that it was funding the Tea Party movement that swept through America ahead of the mid-term elections in November. The media largely reported on it as a mass grassroots uprising. But behind the local meetings and cries of outrage, the freemarket thinktank Americans for Prosperity was playing the role of puppeteer – funded by the oil wealth of Koch Industries’ David Koch.
The power of the oil lobby is well documented. Big oil spent a reported $169 million lobbying in the US in 2009, and millions more on political support. BP alone made $500,000 worth of political donations, including $71,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign.1 (Its total lobbying spend was far higher – $16 million.)
But these figures only tell half the story. Undeclared and undercover, big oil is involved in funding a range of PR initiatives designed to manipulate public opinion and block action to tackle climate change. The Tea Party movement – unmasked after David Koch was filmed speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event – is an Astroturf (or fake grassroots) campaign on a scale not seen before.
Americans for Prosperity have used the Tea Party movement to tap into public concern over the state of the economy and direct it towards an anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-intervention agenda – which suits oil interests very well.
Koch also funds the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Council for Capital Formation, Heartland and other US thinktanks with a record of sowing doubt about climate change.
European oil companies, includig BP, have jumped on the bandwagon, providing funding for Tea Party candidates standing in the US mid-term election – who all deny that human behaviour has an impact on climate change.
Take it further: Sign up for updates at priceofoil.org