REGULATORY CAPTURE RED ALERT: NRDC Opens Wallet to Politics, Writes “Blueprint” for EPA’s Clean Power Plan

by William Yeatman on July 8, 2014

in Blog

Yesterday, I noted a New York Times article about how the Natural Resources Defense Council crafted the “blueprint” for EPA’s recently released Clean Power Plan.

Formerly at NRDC

Formerly at NRDC

So, NRDC is influencing policy, per the paper of record. With that in mind, now consider NRDC’s political exertions.

In 2003, NRDC started a 501c(4) advocacy group, NRDC Action Fund, to “work to educate and mobilize voters…” To date, most of its influence has been wielded behind the scenes. Although it dabbled in ad hominem attacks, ad hoc polling,and other political tricks during the last election cycle, “NRDC Action Fund primarily operated by encouraging its donors to donate directly to candidates or environmental advocacy groups,” according to an April article by the Washington Post’s controversial Juliet Eilperin.

Now, NRDC’s “c4,” as such groups are colloquially known inside the beltway, is taking on a more conspicuous role. Reports the Posts’s Eilperin:

The League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund are starting LeadingGreen, a collaboration that will steer donations to federal candidates and enlist the help of major donors in lobbying elected officials…”It underscores the fact we need more environmental money in politics, and we need more environmental donors doing advocacy to make sure politicians understand they feel strongly about these issues, and that’s what the new alliance is all about,” Karpinski said in an interview.” [money quote formatted]*

Political spending by special interests is but one manifestation of a phenomenon known as “regulatory capture” by those special interest of regulatory agencies. Another is the existence of a “revolving door” between special interests and agencies; to this end, NRDC is well represented at the EPA among political appointees. The spoils of regulatory capture include policy-making prerogatives of the sort described in the aforementioned New York Times article about the NRDC’ “blueprint.”

In the 1970s, there was widespread belief that industry had captured New Deal-era regulatory agencies, resulting in lax oversight. Today, the nature of regulatory capture is different, at least it is at the EPA. There, environmental special interests have captured the agency in order to co-opt state power in the persecution of industrial foes. The result is mindless, industry-specific regulations, like the Clean Power Plan, Utility MACT, Regional Haze, and many more.

*I’d be remiss if I failed to give mention to the political contributions of the Sierra Club to the Obama Administration in particular. On Sierra Club’s Politics & Elections webpage, the organization boasts of how, “Working closely with Obama for America, we recruited more than 12,000 members to join Environmentalists for Obama, to participate in “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) shifts on Election Day, and to plug into the Obama campaign dashboard to make over 30,000 phone calls…It worked. On November 9, the Obama campaign acknowledged our contribution this cycle, stating the Club was “an integral part of (the) win.” Sierra Club is no less well represented at the EPA than is the NRDC.

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