The Washington Post’s “The Fix” blog provides some intriguing background into what led up to tonight’s so-called “climate change talkathon” Senate Democrats will engage in into tomorrow morning on the floor of the US Senate:
Dozens of Democratic senators plan to speak out Monday night into early Tuesday morning about their growing concerns with climate change. Adopting a strategy used in the past year to great effect by Republican senators — Ted Cruz, anyone? — at least 28 Democrats plan to use floor time to raise their concerns on the lack of attention being paid to climate change — although there is no single bill or even set of bills for which they will be advocating.
Tonight’s program “isn’t about a particular bill,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who helped organize the talkathon. “This is about trying to raise the profile and being to gain some momentum on this issue. Then I think we’re in a position to ask corporate America and other groups and organizations to get more engaged and open the kind of space it will take to pass a bill. But the first thing we have to show is that we’re engaged ourselves.”
That all sounds nice. And we have no doubt that Whitehouse is genuine in his desire to raise the profile of climate issues. But, there is another more political reason for the decision by Senate Democrats to devote their time to the issue right now. And that issue is campaign cash.
Environmental groups spent about $20 million on ads and other activities to help Democrats in 2012 and gave about $742,000 directly to candidates during the cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. During last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election, the League of Conservation Voters was the biggest outside spender in the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, and ran television ads targeting Cuccinelli for suggesting that global warming is not linked to human activity. Already in this cycle the group is running ads on behalf of Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who is locked in a bitter Democratic primary and is a lead organizer of Monday evening’s events.
[Billionaire businessman Thomas] Steyer hosted a recent fundraiser at his San Francisco home that netted the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee $400,000 and where Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and the six other Democratic senators in attendance openly discussed plans for tonight’s talkathon, according to reports. Reid also has vowed to allow his colleagues to discuss the issue during their weekly lunches and on the Senate floor.
Wowsers. I’ve heard of big money buying votes many times over in politics at all levels, but explicitly buying dedicated time on the Senate floor? Kinda takes the term “up for sale” to a whole new disturbing level, doesn’t it? And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hands are all over this. They don’t call him “Dirty Harry” for nothin’ …