Here's How The Hill Is Helping Industry Front Groups Hide Their Fossil Fuel Ties
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
In recent weeks, The Hill has published at least six articles that quoted industry-funded front groups attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan without disclosing the groups' fossil fuel ties. Many oil, coal and utility companies have a financial interest in opposing the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and readers of The Hill deserve to know whether groups criticizing the plan have taken money from fossil fuel companies.
The Hill Has Repeatedly Quoted Fossil Fuel Front Groups Without Proper Disclosure
August 2: The Hill Cites Heritage Foundation To Explain How "Conservatives" Are Reacting to EPA Plan, But Doesn't Disclose Heritage's Funding From Exxon Mobil And Oil Billionaire Koch Brothers. In an August 2 article, The Hill juxtaposed the reaction to the Clean Power Plan by "environmentalists" with that of "conservatives." But the article did not mention that the conservative group it cited has received funding from fossil fuel interests:
Environmentalists call it the biggest step any president has taken to tackle climate change.
"It's going to be remembered for a very long time," said Carol Browner, who served as President Clinton's EPA administrator and later as Obama's climate czar. "We are going to feel the positive impacts of this rule for a very long time to come."
But to conservatives, the climate rules cement a different kind of legacy for Obama.
"If this ends up shuttering a lot of coal-fired power plants and comes under questionable legality, I see it as something that reduces the quality of life for Americans, that poses a threat to the economy and could pose a threat to the reliability of the national power grid, as well as constitutional separation of powers," said Nick Loris, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. [The Hill, 8/2/15]
August 3: The Hill Fails To Identify ConocoPhillips And Koch Brothers Connections To U.S. Chamber of Commerce And National Federation of Independent Business. In an August 3 article, The Hill reported that "a coalition of environmentally friendly small-business groups" point to polling they say shows "as many as three-quarters of small businesses" support the Clean Power Plan. But the article cited two industry-funded groups attacking the EPA climate plan without disclosing their fossil fuel ties.* The Hill described the U.S. Chamber of Commerce only as one of "Washington's leading business groups," and identified the National Federation of Independent Business only as a group "which claims to represent 350,000 small-business owners." [The Hill, 8/3/15]
August 4: The Hill Fails To Note That Competitive Enterprise Institute Has Received Funding From ExxonMobil, Texaco. In an August 4 article, The Hill reported that a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) said that while Congress has little power to stop the Clean Power Plan, it is "wholly the next president's issue" to determine what will ultimately happen to the EPA plan. The article did not disclose that CEI has received funding from fossil fuel companies. [The Hill, 8/4/15]
August 5: The Hill Describes The Institute For Energy Research Only As "Conservative" Without Disclosing Funding From ExxonMobil and American Petroleum Institute. In an August 5 article asserting that the Obama administration had "spurn[ed] natural gas" in the final version of the Clean Power Plan, The Hill stated: "To the conservative Institute for Energy Research, the move shows that Obama opposes all fossil fuels." The article did not mention the group's oil industry funding. [The Hill, 8/5/15]
August 9: The Hill Identifies The Competitive Enterprise Institute Only As "Conservative," Fails To Note Ties To Murray Energy And Arch Coal. In an August 9 article, The Hill reported that "opponents of Obama's [climate change plan] say the court system is their only hope at beating back the carbon limits until a new president is in the Oval Office in 2017." The article quoted a senior fellow at the "conservative" Competitive Enterprise Institute stating that litigation is "the most viable pathway" to stopping the climate plan, but failed to identify the group's fossil fuel funding. [The Hill, 8/9/15]
August 15: The Hill Describes The Institute For Energy Research As "A Conservative Think Tank," Doesn't Disclose Koch And ExxonMobil Ties. In an August 15 article, The Hill quoted an allegation by the senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) that the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado "raises serious questions" about the EPA's "competency," and could impact the EPA's attempt "to push their agenda on many other items, including the Clean Power Plan." The article failed to mention IER's fossil fuel funding, identifying the group only as a "conservative think tank." [The Hill, 8/15/15]
The Industry Ties Of These Groups Are Well Documented
On July 31, Media Matters Published A Comprehensive Guide For Reporters To Properly Disclose Organizations' Fossil Fuel Ties. [Media Matters, 7/31/15]
The Competitive Enterprise Institute: The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative advocacy group dedicated to "economic freedom," has received funding over the years from ExxonMobil, Texaco, and the family foundations of the oil billionaire Koch brothers, and past sponsors of its annual fundraising dinners include Murray Energy, Arch Coal, Marathon Petroleum, Devon Energy, Phillips 66, the American Petroleum Institute, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. CEI has repeatedly cast doubt on the scientific consensus around global warming, including through paid ads that misrepresent scientific research. The group actively opposes the Clean Power Plan, with senior fellow Marlo Lewis alleging that it is "breathtakingly lawless." [Media Matters Disclosure Guide: Competitive Enterprise Institute, 7/31/15]
The Heritage Foundation: The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that has received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from the family foundations of the oil billionaire Koch brothers. Heritage claims that the impacts of man-made climate change are a matter of "personal opinions" and the Clean Power Plan poses serious "threats." Like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Heritage released a highly misleading study about the Clean Power Plan before it was even announced. [Media Matters Disclosure Guide: Heritage Foundation, 7/31/15]
The Institute for Energy Research: The Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), both list former Koch Industries lobbyist Thomas Pyle as president, and both are partly funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and their political network. IER has received funding from Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch-backed DonorsTrust and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Pyle joined a press call with six governors who "threaten to defy" the Clean Power Plan, and has urged other governors to do the same. AEA has also circulated a highly misleading poll to wrongly allege that Americans don't approve of the plan. [Media Matters Disclosure Guide: Institute for Energy Research, 7/31/15]
The National Federation of Independent Business: The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which says it represents hundreds of thousands of "small and independent business owners," has received millions of dollars from Koch-backed groups. CNN reported that Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which has "deep ties to the Koch empire," gave $2.5 million to NFIB and its affiliated groups in 2012, the most NFIB received from any single source. NFIB also received $500,000 from the Koch-linked organization Free Enterprise America in 2011. NFIB's misleading attacks on the Clean Power Plan have received media attention, and its Alabama state director recently authored an op-ed urging Congress to "push back" against the carbon pollution standards. [Media Matters Disclosure Guide: National Federation of Independent Business, 7/31/15 (NFIB added to guide on 8/7/15)]
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which describes itself as "the world's largest business organization," has a board of directors that includes officials from ConocoPhillips, Alliance Resource Partners, CONSOL Energy, and Southern Company. Many of the Chamber's largest donors are also fossil fuel companies. The Chamber published a study attacking the Clean Power Plan before it was even released, leading media fact-checkers to deem the study "false" and worthy of "four Pinocchios." But that hasn't stopped the Chamber from continuing to try to undermine the EPA's climate plan. [Media Matters Disclosure Guide: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 7/31/15]
* The National Federation of Independent Business was not added to the Media Matters disclosure guide until August 7, 2015, several days after the group was quoted in a Hill article. However, NFIB's financial ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers were already well established by media outlets including CNN and the Huffington Post.
Kevin Kalhoefer contributed research to this piece.