In an interview with Vice, Barack Obama struck his favorite pose -- that of disinterested, objective observer on the passing political scene. Asked about congressional resistance to cap and trade, our social-critic-in-chief responded:
Well, some of it is economic. If you poll folks, they’re concerned about climate change. But they’re even more concerned about gas prices. You can’t fault somebody for being concerned about paying the bills or being about to fill up your (sic) tank to get to your job. In some cases, though, you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry. And there’s a lot of money involved. Typically in Congress, the committees of jurisdiction, like the energy committees are populated by folks from places that pump a lot of oil and pump a lot of gas.
It is true that some in Congress are basically shills for the oil industry, although let’s not kid ourselves: cap and trade would provide a very lucrative rent for others industries, and plenty of members take money from them, too. Moreover, there are lots of reasons to oppose cap and trade that aren’t reducible to pay-to-play.
But I’m with the president 100 percent on his concern that too many Beltway pols are corporate shills. And I’d like to add one more name to his list: Barack Obama. The president is a corporate shill, too.
Obama merits several mentions in my new book, A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption, and never as a crusader for good government. Let’s run down the greatest hits.
This is from ABC News in 2007:
Away from the bright lights and high-minded rhetoric of the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has quietly worked with corporate lobbyists to help pass breaks worth $12 million….
last year, at the request of a hired representative for an Australian-owned chemical corporation Nufarm, Obama introduced nine separate bills exempting the company from import fees on a range of chemical ingredients it uses in the manufacture of pesticides and herbicides. Nufarm’s U.S. subsidiary is based in Illinois….
Nufarm wasn’t the only beneficiary of Obama’s efforts to reduce customs fees and duties. In early May of 2006, two Washington lobbyists registered to work on behalf of Astellas Pharma, a Japanese-owned drug company which also has offices in Illinois. The lobbyists’ task? "Introduce legislation to temporarily suspend customs duties for the importation of a pharmaceutical ingredient," they wrote on their lobbying forms. Less than three weeks later, the men had earned their $20,000 fee, thanks to Obama. On May 26, he introduced S. 3155, a bill specifically exempting Astellas’ key ingredient from tariff payments. The bill cost the federal government more than $1 million in lost revenue, according to government estimates.
That’s not the only instance of Obama’s corporate shilling. While campaigning for president in 2008, he ran a television ad blasting the pharmaceutical industry for cutting a deal with Republicans on Medicare Part D. In it, Obama correctly notes that Republican Billy Tauzin, “the chairman of the committee who pushed the law through, went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million per year.”
The very next year, in a bid to win support for Obamacare, the president’s advisors cut a deal with the pharmaceutical industry. In exchange for industry support, the administration abandoned a proposal to allow the re-importation of drugs from Canada. Who was in charge of the pharmaceutical lobby at the time of the deal? Why, Billy Tauzin, of course!