Column: Koch brothers are the latest strange bedfellows in Washington state carbon tax fight
The twists and turns just keep coming in the pioneering revenue-neutral carbon tax measure, Initiative 732, which will be on Tuesday’s ballot in Washington state.
First came pushback from the some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. Now we have a new Public Disclosure Commission report for the No campaign showing that Koch Industries contributed $50,000 to the No campaign. The Koch brothers’ anti-science and anti-environment activities are well documented; it’s pretty interesting that the No campaign would want to be associated with them if climate change is truly something they care about. Perhaps more telling, this late round of dirty fossil fuel money is indicative of the strength and effectiveness of the I-732 policy and the threat it poses to the state’s — and the nation’s — biggest polluters and a signal for what’s to come.
Even more surprising is that the Koch brothers and the No campaign are out of step with leading Republicans in Washington state and in Washington, D.C. Republican supporters of I-732 now include former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who narrowly lost the 2012 governor’s race. And leading conservative economist Greg Mankiw told The New York Times this week that I-732 could be a model for the nation because it takes a budget-friendly and business-friendly approach to climate action, one that sets a stable and predictable price on carbon and “recycles” carbon tax revenues by reducing existing taxes.
Instead of making government bigger or smaller, I-732 focuses on making government smarter. That’s why I-732 has gained support from both the left and the right. Our most recent endorsement on the left is from the Seattle Socialist Alternative.
This is truly a David vs. Goliath battle. Large establishment organizations on both the left and the right are pushing back against I-732 because it threatens the status quo. But the status quo is not acceptable when it comes to the future of our planet: In a nutshell, too many people have gotten too tired of seeing too little happen on the climate front. That’s how Carbon Washington managed to gather over 360,000 signatures (about 5 percent of the state population) last year to get the initiative on the ballot, putting it in the top 10 in Washington history. This grassroots momentum and unrelenting focus on addressing climate change is what led groups like Audubon Washington to support this campaign.
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) October 28, 2016
We continue to be encouraged by the latest poll results showing that undecided voters are moving towards a Yes vote. We have also received a wave of celebrity support for the policy. Last week Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted his support saying, “I-732 is a chance to create a clean energy future. Join @CarbonWA and @AudubonWA and vote #Yeson732.” Fisher Stevens, director of DiCaprio’s new climate change documentary Before the Flood shared his support for I-732, as did celebrities affiliated with Season 2 of Years of Living Dangerously, including Don Cheadle, Ed Norton , Nikki Reed, Lili Taylor and Ian Somerhalder.
Buoyed by these endorsements, our tireless volunteers, ranging from students to grandparents, are leading the state’s biggest voter education effort on climate change. For more details see the “Get the Facts” press release about I-732.
Watch economics correspondent Paul Solman’s report on Initiative 732 above