Sunday, December 07, 2014


Today The New York Times has a long story about the hand-in-glove relationship between big donors from the energy industry and Republican state attorneys general:
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon's chief of lobbying.

"Outstanding!" William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt's office. The attorney general's staff had taken Devon's draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general's signature. "The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House."

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation's top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year....
Democrats may be infuriatingly corporatist much of the time, but the better Democrats at least acknowledge the existence of stakeholders other than the fat cats, and craft legislation and regulation to acknowledge some of those stakeholders' concerns. By contrast, modern-day Republicans, almost without exception, believe there should be absolutely no separation of industry and state.

And it's no surprise that this erasure of the boundary between industry and government is taking place at the state level. At Lawyers, Guns & Money, Erik Loomis writes:
There's a reason that corporations love state regulators and state politicians -- they can easily buy them for cheap.
Which also explains why right-wingers who claim to revere every word of the Constitution have made a crusade of trying to repeal the 17th Amendment, which, since its passage in 1913, has allowed U.S. senators to be directly elected by voters. Prior to the amendment's passage, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures.

It costs a hell of a lot less to buy a few state legislators than it does to buy a U.S. Senate seat in the current system, because running for the U.S. Senate involves purchase a significant amount of TV advertising, in a way that running for a seat in the state legislature doesn't. In the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the country in 2014, in North Carolina, outside groups spent $81 million; compare that to the $9 million that was spent by outside groups on all state legislative and judicial races in North Carolina.

Buying state government is, relatively speaking, a bargain for fat cats. So of course they want the 17th Amendment repealed. It just makes good business sense.


Victor said...

Ad if they passed their election savings onto the their consumers, it might make it a tad more palatable.

But, of course, it'll go the shareholders and the top exec's!

Free soup in the State Legislature's cafeteria!

No soup for you, or me!

Dark Avenger said...

It was the editor John W. Campbell, Jr., who once stated that America was an experiment in direct democracy thst was only some 50+ years old. When challenged, he cited the 17th Amendment as the beginning of real direct democracy.

So, after almost 100 year, we do have a verdict on direct democracy: It's bad for business!

The New York Crank said...

Whammy mean corporations can buy state legislators. They're already bought and paid for.

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Ten Bears said...

Business... is bad for democracy.

Philo Vaihinger said...

The reason you point out for their opposition to the 17th is correct, but they are not shy about pointing to the more general reason.

It is the same reason slaves never have the vote in any slave society.

That would create an incentive for politicians and political parties if not to free slaves then at any rate to limit the freedom of the slave owners in the interests of the slaves.

Wages and hours legislation.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The entire panoply of progressive legislation that the right is sworn to abolish, branding it un-American, tyrannical, totalitarian, communist, and sheer theft of what by nature and nature's laws are their rights and money.

And they are perfectly correct that varying degrees of this very resentment of popular power and democracy can be traced all the way back to many of those who wrote our current US Constitution at the convention in Philadelphia.

It is one reason the conventioneers did not envision the senate as popularly elected, the other being the concern of most delegates to continue the union and its government, as before under the Articles of Confederation, as one of equally sovereign and separate states, ultimately their creature and responsible to them.

Some of them who played a leading role in its design, after all, still refused to sign the Philadelphia constitution and went home to campaign against ratification.

And today conservatives like to think such ancestry makes their attitude more politically and morally legitimate rather than making the convention and its constitution less so.

Philo Vaihinger said...

@ Dark Avenger.

Madison positively crowed in The Federalist that the conventioneers had totally excluded direct democracy from the Philadelphia constitution, as it had been excluded from the several constitutions of all the states.

He referred to the popular assemblies of the ancient city-states, in which the people in person voted on legislation and other government acts, as examples of what "democracy" meant to the political science of the ancients and of the conventioneers.

It is what "direct democracy" means even today.

Apart from the famous and disappearing New England Town Meeting, nothing like that has existed in America even from colonial times.

During the Progressive Era, states introduced the referendum and especially the popular initiative as nods in that direction.

Thin gruel, and perhaps as often used for anti-progressive agenda items as for progressive ones.

Dark Avenger said...

Thanks for lecturing on what I already know, Philo. Do you have something to say about the subject or is being a crashing bore part of your ideology as well?

I think you picked the wrong week to give up glue-sniffing.

The Republican Progressive governor of CA about 100 yeas ago ago, Hiriam Johnson, stated that his purpose in having all three you mention enshrined into CA law was to prevent a Democratic governor from being elected, to which end it did succeed at that goal for a while, the reign of Gov. Terminator made it almost impossible that the CA electorate will ever use the recall for a state-wide race, absent some massive error or corruption on the part of the office-holder in question.

Ten Bears said...

Come on, DA, credit where credit is due: Philo is right.

I intensly dislike the "h" word, Wash my grandkids' mouths out with soap when they use it... I intensly dislike it when a reich-winger is right too, rare as that is, but credit where credit is due.