Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oily Money: Should Election Media Be Funded by Big Oil?

Last night was a big night in American presidential politics.  Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota had big races, and the results surprised a lot of people.  So naturally, I was interested.  I tuned in to CNN, thinking that they would be the most politically neutral. 

“America’s Choice 2012,” blared the network voice-over, “brought to you by America's Natural Gas Alliance.  Natural gas: abundant, domestic clean American power."

Then came the advertisement, vaguely promising “up to a million jobs,” and assuring us that gas drilling (no mention of “hydro-fracking,” of course) won’t pollute anything.

Hmm.  This is a political race.  Am I hearing this right?  The media coverage is being sponsored by the same natural gas people who are donating heavily to the campaigns themselves?

But a half hour later, the announcement changed: “America’s Choice 2012,” said voice again, “brought to you by Clean Coal, America’s power.”  Of course, there followed a silly commercial about how coal will rescue the beleaguered American little guy from our economic woes.  No discussion, of course, about that little word: “clean.” Here's a look:

Once again, I’m wondering: Why should gas, and now coal, be funding a media outlet’s election coverage?  Coal interests are heavily invested in these elections.  They’re the ones paying for all this posturing in Congress about how climate change is “a massive hoax” – and how we should handcuff the EPA from protecting unborn babies and their mothers from mercury poisoning.

But sure enough, the announcement changed again: “America’s Choice 2012, brought to you by Vote4Energy,” an arm of the American Petroleum Institute.  These are the people paying Congress to overrun American grassroots resistance to the Canadian Tar Sands export pipeline, slated to run across the heartland of America.

By the end of the evening, I had heard more from Exxon and Chevron than I had from Santorum and Romney.

But is this what the First Amendment has in mind?  When polluting interests can control the candidates with unlimited spending, that’s bad.  But when they can go on to control the election coverage and the electorate by carpet-bombing the airwaves with deceptive ads, that’s simply shameful.

But Americans know that ordinary people can change things.  For starters, why not write your network of choice?  You can add your voice to the chorus of people demanding a free media.

Here’s what I suggest: Copy the letter I’ve written below, and then click on one of the three network links below, and paste the letter into the comment box.  Or better yet, write your own letter, if you have time.
To the news staff:

As a person who values independent media coverage of political elections, I find it indefensible that you subject your viewers to the barrage of deceptive, politically-charged advertising by oil, coal and natural gas lobbies during election coverage.  The fossil-fuel lobbies are among the largest donors to the super-PACs, and are the most active manipulators of this year’s political campaigns.  If they prevail, most efforts to protect the earth’s systems from devastating climate change and pollution will come to ruin.  And they not only control the politicians with their money:  They now exert undue influence on your network, and maintain a platform for spreading disinformation and confusion among your viewers.

All people – even oil & coal advertisers – have a right to speak; but no one has an obligation to accept dirty oil money to collaborate in the misleading of American voters.

It’s time to end your affair with the fossil-fuel lobbyists.  Stop running oil, coal and gas ads during election coverage!

Thanks for acting, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

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