News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hot air from fossil-fuel enriched billionaire Tom Steyer gets cool response from fact-checkers though fact-free emotional appeals may get results-San Jose Mercury News

8/21/14, "Bay Area billionaire's climate-change ads leave fact-checkers cold," San Jose Mercury News, Josh Richman

"Bay Area billionaire Tom Steyer's blitz against candidates who are soft on climate change is underway in seven states, but some prominent fact-checking groups say he's emitting enough hot air to melt a few glaciers.

Negative reviews from watchdogs like PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and the Washington Post are dogging one of the nation's biggest political donors, a former hedge fund manager who ditched his ties to fossil fuels and presented himself as a transparent antidote to the conservative Koch brothers' semi-clandestine funding network....

Steyer, 57, of San Francisco, was unavailable for an interview this week. But Bobby Whithorne, spokesman for Steyer's NextGen Climate Action super PAC, said: "We stand by our ads."

The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog in January, however, awarded its dreaded "four Pinocchios" rating to a NextGen ad citing Chinese investment in Canada's tar sands and claiming the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would produce oil only for other countries. The Chinese investment is small, the Post found, and NextGen took an oil executive's words out of context to imply that no oil carried by the pipeline will remain in the U.S.

The ad "relies on speculation, not facts, to make insinuations and assertions not justified by the reality," the Post said. Last October, PolitiFact -- a renowned fact-checking project run by the Tampa Bay Times -- gave its "pants on fire" rating to a NextGen ad claiming Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, then running for governor, wanted to "eliminate all forms of birth control." Cuccinelli has repeatedly said he has no interest in restricting contraception, PolitiFact noted.

This month, PolitiFact gave "half-true" ratings to a pair of NextGen ads attacking Florida Gov. Rick Scott's ties to energy companies and polluters. FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, said it didn't dispute the statement of critics that one of the Florida ads was "total fiction," though the GOP response had "glaring factual problems" too.

And PolitiFact this month deemed "false" a NextGen ad accusing Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst of having signed a pledge that "protects tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas." The pledge was a broad vow to oppose all tax hikes.

But Whithorne, Steyer's spokesman, noted that an Iowa television station had determined that the ad was "mostly true."

And he is quick to defend all of NextGen's ads: "The facts are there, and we provide extensive backup to substantiate the claims. With less than 80 days until the midterms, we'll continue to keep the pressure on the anti-science candidates and highlight their extreme positions."

Steyer is used to political battles. He took lead roles in California ballot-measure campaigns to defend the state's landmark greenhouse-gas emissions law and to close a $1-billion-per-year corporate tax loophole.

Two years ago, he announced he would step down from his business and turn to public policy. He founded NextGen and said he hoped to spend $100 million -- half from his own pocket, half raised from others -- to challenge candidates across the nation on climate-change issues. Steyer says the Koch brothers are out to enrich themselves, while he's putting the planet first.

In Iowa, Ernst's campaign is urging television stations to take down NextGen's ad. In Florida, Scott's legal counsel issued cease-and-desist letters telling stations to stop airing one of the ads; at least one, in Fort Myers, complied. And Californians Against Higher Oil Taxes, founded earlier this year by oil-industry trade groups and other business organizations, says Steyer's ads help make a case against him.

"It just goes to show that if the public understands the truth about his policies, they're not going to support it because it's going to drive up their cost of living," spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said. 

"So it seems he's pivoted to lies and distortions of the truth to sell the public on something they're not buying."

(Larry) Sabato, however, said the ads are meant more to mobilize already-sympathetic voters than to change minds. And Tom Hollihan, a University of Southern California political communications expert, agreed.

"For the people for whom the ads are the primary audience, the fact-checking might not have much consequence," Hollihan said, adding that the fact checks have more effect in correcting the record for media and policymakers.

Steyer doesn't seem to have raised enough money to reach his $100 million spending goal but has spent more than $20 million so far in this election cycle.

Dan Schnur, director of USC's Unruh Institute of Politics and former chairman of California's Fair Political Practices Commission, said the ads' targets have little choice but to up their own antes.

"Until someone decides to spend just as much money in opposition to these messages as NextGen has spent broadcasting them," he said, "most voters will never hear a doubting word."

Tom Steyer's TARGETS

San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action has targeted seven Republicans across the nation who question the role of humans in causing climate change or have ties to the oil industry. They are:
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FLORIDA -- Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is being challenged by Democrat Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor.

COLORADO -- U.S. Senate candidate Corey Gardner, a Republican congressman challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.

IOWA -- U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst, a Republican state senator running against Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley.

PENNSYLVANIA -- Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who is being challenged by Democratic businessman Tom Wolf.

NEW HAMPSHIRE -- U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown, a Republican and former Massachusetts senator (one of two Republicans vying to challenge incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen).

MAINE -- Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is being challenged by Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud.

MICHIGAN -- U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, a Republican former secretary of state running against Democratic Congressman Gary Peters." via Free Rep.

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Fossil fuel billionaire Tom Steyer says his only motivation today is "saving the world" but he has major financial interests in "renewables" which means US taxpayer dollars:

9/26/13, "Climate Skeptics Against Global Warming," Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, thebreakthrough.org

"The Left, in these ways, has been every bit as guilty as the Right of engaging in "post-truth" climate politics. Consider New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza's glowing profile of Tom Steyer, the billionaire bankrolling the anti-Keystone campaign. After Lizza suggested that Steyer and his brother Tom might be the Koch brothers of environmentalism, Steyer objects.  The difference, he insists, is that while the Koch brothers are after profit, he is trying to save the world.

It is telling that neither Lizza nor his editors felt it necessary to point out that Steyer is a major investor in renewables and stands to profit from his political advocacy as well. Clearly, Steyer is also motivated by green ideology. But it is hard to argue that the Koch brothers haven’t been equally motivated by their libertarian ideology. The two have funded libertarian causes since the 1970s and, notably, were among the minority of major energy interests who opposed cap and trade. Fossil energy interests concerned about protecting their profits, including the country's two largest coal utilities, mostly chose to game the proposed emissions trading system rather than oppose it as the Koch brothers did."....

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Unelected billionaires have made elections superfluous:

8/14/14, "Florida Fracking Fracas," FactCheck.org

"Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action started the fracas with an ad that first aired Aug. 11. It claims Scott received a “fountain” of campaign cash from “the company that profited off pollution” by using a “dangerous” type of oil drilling near the Everglades.

Actually, Scott’s administration isn’t doing the driller any favors as the ad implies. Quite the contrary.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says it denied permission for the company drilling the well to use the so-called “acid fracking” procedure last December, and when the driller used the procedure anyway it fined the company $25,000. The agency later revoked the company’s drilling permits, and has taken it to court seeking additional penalties in excess of $100,000. The company shut down the well as of July 15.

According to the court papers filed by the state, environmental officials last December notified the company verbally that it would not approve use of an “enhanced acid stimulation” method (which has been called a “fracking-like” procedure) to stimulate oil flow from the well, a method not previously used in Florida. But the company conducted the operation anyway, starting last Dec. 30 and ending Jan. 1. The state filed a formal, written “cease and desist” order on Dec. 31, after the operation had started, but the company ignored the order and completed the operation, the DEP stated. The state then extracted a $25,000 fine, and got the company to sign a formal consent order on April 7 in which the company also agreed to monitor groundwater for possible pollution violations.

The state made no public announcement of all this until May 2, after it says the company failed to come up with an acceptable independent expert to conduct the groundwater monitoring, as it had agreed to do. The company’s relations with the Scott administration have only gone downhill since then, culminating in the state’s lawsuit alleging that the company wasn’t living up to the terms of the original $25,000 settlement.

No Pollution Found

So far state officials have not found that the “acid stimulation” procedure the ad refers to has resulted in any contamination of groundwater, however. Environmental officials even installed their own groundwater monitors, and said preliminary results showed no evidence of contamination. Calling somebody a “polluter” before there’s any sign of pollution is like calling somebody a “robber” before there’s evidence that anybody has been robbed.

And in any case, the driller is not even the source of the $200,000 that the ad says came from “oil interests.” Though one would never know this by simply watching the ad, the money actually came in last year from four members of the wealthy Collier family, whose interests include Collier Resources

The Collier company partnered with the driller — the Dan A. Hughes Co. — which was leasing the drilling site. The Collier family, we should note, has interests far beyond oil. It also owns shopping centers and office parks, and develops planned communities on its vast land holdings, where it also grows citrus and vegetables, and raises cattle, not to mention sod and palm trees sold for landscaping.

A Vanishing ‘Connection’

This ad even drags in an erroneous news report about a third company in its hodgepodge of citations. The opening clip is from a June 16 report by an Orlando TV station. An anchor is seen referring to “a significant financial connection between one of the drilling companies and Gov. Rick Scott.” But the connection has nothing to do with the $200,000 mentioned later, and it no longer existed at the time of the report.

The reporter refers to a personal investment by Scott in Schlumberger Ltd., the international oilfield technology supplier. The investment was valued at $135,000 in 2010 when Scott put it into a blind trust. But when Scott recently ended the trust and publicly listed all the assets he owned at the end of last year, there was no sign of the Schlumberger stock he once held.

The connection would have been a thin one even if it still existed. 

The station quoted a Schlumberger spokesman as saying the company’s role was assisting Hughes in getting permits for saltwater injection wells and providing information to a consultant who put the Hughes permit application together. It’s hard to imagine that this would have a significant impact on Schlumberger’s global profits, one way or the other, much less on the financial well-being of its stockholders, even if Scott were still among them.

In summary, NextGen cobbles together citations about three different companies, one of them incorrect, to support a claim that Scott somehow favored “the” company that “profited off pollution,” when no pollution or profits are in evidence, and when Scott’s administration actually took the lead in shutting down the Hughes well and revoking the company’s permits."...
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