By Rebecca DiFede — As reported in the Daily Caller on Saturday, the Sierra Club received $26 million dollars in donations from Chesapeake Energy between 2007 and 2010 with a large majority of the cash coming directly from the CEO Aubrey McClendon.
Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Sure $26 million is a large sum of money, but surely it must be because the CEO really loves animals?
Wrong. It has been brought to light that the money was “donated” at a critical time when the Sierra Club had just launched their “Beyond Coal” campaign, which was an attack on coal-burning power plants. The Sierra Club was on a tight budget and was working hard to close as many power plants as possible.
And all of a sudden, up sneaks Chesapeake Energy, a very large natural gas company whose business would directly benefit from taking down their coal industry competitors. This timing was crucial to the success of the program, and the Sierra Club benefitted greatly from the supposed generosity of CEO McClendon.
By donating millions to a tree-hugger-filled Sierra Club, the energy giant had a way to all but ensure that their initiative would gain national attention.
According to Time magazine blogger Bryan Walsh, who first broke the story, this news “raises concerns about influence industry may have had on the Sierra Club’s independence and its support of natural gas in the past.”
The Sierra Club has a long history of loyal membership and an outwardly-sterling reputation for environmental policy making, so it’s quite shocking to find out that they’re so willing to sell out to an energy company to enhance their own agenda.
The revelation that the Sierra Club funded their anti-coal campaign through contributions from the now politically incorrect Chesapeake Energy is causing untold embarrassment for the sanctimonious left which has taken over the organization.
Now, they are asking whether it was it worth getting into bed with an energy company to further their anti-coal campaign?
Of course, it seems that Chesapeake Energy got a lot of bang for their buck as the EPA’s mercury regulation threatening to close hundreds of coal burning power plants and imposing an EPA estimated $9.6 billion of costs on consumers who get their electricity from coal burning plants.
Not surprisingly, members of the Sierra Club were outraged to find out about the $26 million purchase of their name.
But perhaps the people who should really be outraged are the consumers who will be spending more for electricity due to the duplicitous shilling for a company that was afraid to compete in the marketplace.
Sadly, the Chesapeake Energy investment in the Sierra Club is just one more example of how big government is used as a weapon to attack their competitors.
And ultimately, as long as the government can drive legitimate businesses into bankruptcy with a simple stroke of the pen, many more companies will find it more worthwhile to invest in government rather than investing in their own businesses.
That is the real lesson that can be learned from the actions of one natural gas company who found a willing partner in an “environmental group” as long as the price was right.
In big government America, it is now better to invest millions of dollars in an attempt to drive public policy that harms your competitors than to spend the equivalent amount of money on creating markets through traditional economic competition.
At the end of the day, this is the real evil of crony socialism in America, where the government picks winners and losers not just through grants and loans, but through crippling regulations. A system that rewards public relations campaigns over solid business plans and lobbyists often times matter more than engineers.
No one should be surprised that Chesapeake Energy bought a Sierra Club attack on their competitor. It is in fact surprising that more similar stories don’t come out every day. After all, this is the system into which we have allowed America to devolve.
Rebecca DiFede is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government.