Dark Money Group Targets Unwary Greens on Climate Bill

August 5, 2022

We’ve finally got a (game changing if imperfect) climate bill, and the fossil fueled right wing is already working to sabotage it, seeking to exploit the left’s self-defeating penchant for “purity”.

Heated:

POLITICO’s New York-focused newsletter, New York Playbook, has been sponsored by a group called United for Clean Power every day this week. 

In each edition of the popular newsletter, the group has urged New Yorkers to oppose the historic $369 billion climate policy deal reached by Senate Democrats last week, arguing it does not go far enough to save the planet.

“The time to take action on planet-saving climate change legislation is NOW,” reads one of the group’s ads. “Demand true environmental justice from your Democrat colleagues or block the Reconciliation bill.” Another ad reads: “Demand real climate change action in the Reconciliation package, or kill it altogether.”

Similar ads from United for Clean Power have been spreading on Facebook and Google this week, too. The group has spent $11,527 on Facebook ads in the last week, as well as $15,300 on more than 100 Google ads shown in all 50 states.

United for Clean Power looks a lot like a progressive advocacy group. After all, many climate-justice focused groups have raised alarm about the deal because of its many gifts to the oil and gas industry, courtesy of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

But United for Clean Power is not a progressive advocacy group. According to reporting from Nick Seymour and Kyle Tharp at the FWIW newsletter, United for Clean Power is a Republican-linked dark money group, and most likely an attempt at deceptive astroturfing.

In other words, Republicans are trying to kill historic climate legislation by tricking progressive voters into believing that’s the best thing to do for the climate. And platforms like POLITICO, Facebook and Google are aiding in that deception by allowing the ads to spread unchecked.

Shrewdly, Republican fossil fuel operatives are trying to use the all-to-familiar progressive Achilles heel, – politics by Purity test, against the climate – the message is, this bill is not “pure” enough in its “climate justice” provisions, so kill it.

FWIW:

The organization’s ads target districts represented by members of the progressive “Squad” in the House of Representatives, and so far they’ve spent $9,900 on Google ads and around $11,500 on Meta ads since July 30th. 

Check out their ad here:

The organization has also shelled out major dollars to sponsor several issues of POLITICO’s New York Playbook Newsletter since earlier year. A weekly takeover of that newsletter can cost around $20,000. 👀

The organization’s recent ads struck us as deeply strange – practically every Democrat in Congress seems to be working toward Yes on this bill, and climate groups on the Left from Sunrise Movement to Earthjustice are calling for its swift passage…So, what exactly is United for Clean Power?

There is scarce information online about who is behind the organization. The organization’s Facebook page was created in early 2015, but it has no real information on the group, and their posts this week criticize the Inflation Reduction Act as “only a small fraction of what this administration said they were going to accomplish” and “this plan doesn’t do nearly enough.” 

Their one-page WordPress website was created in October 2020 and its domain was registered by a third party. On July 27, 2022, the same day Schumer and Manchin announced their agreement, they created their YouTube channel, and they were up with ads across platforms on July 30th.

Whoever created United for Clean Power laid the digital groundwork for pop-up campaigns like this years ago in case they ever needed a climate-focused brand to utilize. Several readers flagged for us that the group ran some type of campaign in an Ohio state legislative race years ago, spent several thousand dollars in an Oklahoma State Senate campaign, and received money from a now-defunct right-wing dark money group in 2015. In November 2020, they ran YouTube ads backing a spoiler Green-party candidate in a competitive Oregon State Senate race, whose candidacy ultimately cost the Democratic nominee the election.

FWIW was able to locate the organization’s 2018 and 2019 IRS 990 forms, which reveal the organization’s only major expenditure was to pay Republican firm Majority Strategies $135,000 for “advertising.”. 

According to FEC data, Majority Strategies has worked to elect countless Republican climate deniers to Congress and other elected offices, including recently for Sarah Palin’s campaign for Congress in Alaska this year. The firm last week published research urging their clients to invest in digital ads instead of exclusively focusing on traditional TV ads.

We reached out to United for Clean Power and Majority Strategies for comment, but have not received a response. 

Because of the group’s obscurity and opacity, we can’t be 100% certain of this organization’s motives. However, due to their recent posts critical of the Inflation Reduction Act and past Republican ties, we think there’s a likelihood that this is some type of cynical astroturf campaign to stop the Senate’s reconciliation bill dead in its tracks. 

5 Responses to “Dark Money Group Targets Unwary Greens on Climate Bill”

  1. Ann Says:

    Thanks so much for your analysis and ability to help the rest of us discern what is what in so many of the climate matters and “debates,” Peter. If I don’t know where to look for reliable first hand information or how to think about something concerning climate I come here. Thank you, again.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “Demand true environmental justice from your Democrat colleagues or block the Reconciliation bill.”

    They still use Democrat as an adjective even when they’re faking being on that side.

  3. Ron Benenati Says:

    I lean to little less criticism of the left, unless it is coupled with honest criticism of the corporate leadership and attendant media’s role in pandering to fossil fuel interests and clouding cut and dry analysis of related issues related to climate action and special interest interference — unless, of course. it can be used to minimize the left’s tireless, if admittedly amateur performance as it filters down to the youth clawing for the experience necessary to change their future?// Naw, that wouldn’t be right

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I think it’s OK to criticize certain aspects of the left such as naïté in the face of proven right-wing malificence and disingenuousness, like criticizing Charlie Brown for expecting Lucy to hold the football this time.


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