The Supreme Court’s Gift to the Chamber of Commerce

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Green groups are lambasting Thursday’s Supreme Court decision striking down limits on corporate election advertising as a handout to dirty energy interests, big business groups, and other foes of environmental regulations.

Cathy Duvall, political director of Sierra Club, warned in a statement that the ruling will unleash a “tidal wave of special interest cash and influence peddling” on the electoral process. The decision, Duvall noted, will give even more power to major lobbying groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, that regularly oppose environmental regulations. The Chamber’s Michigan division was a party to one of the campaign finance cases the Court ruled on today, which could allow the organization to spend similar sums on political advertising as it currently does on lobbying. According to fourth-quarter filings released yesterday, the Chamber spent $71 million on lobbying last quarter, bringing the group’s 2009 total to $123 million, more than it has ever spent. By comparison, its political action committee has been spending small change—just $248,381 in 2008 and $235,233 in 2006. The Chamber has pledged to wage its “most aggressive” election fight ever in 2010, and earlier announced it had amassed a $100 million war chest for lobbying and political advocacy this year.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said the decision will “open the floodgates for oil companies like Exxon.” He noted that Exxon Mobil’s PAC spent just over $811,000 on the 2008 election, but would now be free to pour massive sums into political advertising—”potentially drowning out the voices of the majority of Americans who support investing in clean American energy and reducing harmful carbon pollution.”

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