Senator Whitehouse says that to fight climate change, the public should be petitioning corporations

Sheldon Whitehouse
Share this story

Wait, what? Yeah, he said that…

“How much are the Koch Brothers putting [in]? $500, $400 million?” a woman asked United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island.) The question was about how much money the Koch Brothers contribute to combat action on climate change. She, like many in the room at the Cranston Central Library, was trying to get to the root of Whitehouse’s lack of support for the Green New Deal.

“At least,” responded Whitehouse.

“How much of that is going towards Democrats?” asked the woman. “That’s what it comes down to, right?”

“Negligible amounts,” answered Whitehouse. “Here’s what I would share with all of you:

“The Koch Bothers are up to no good,” said Whitehouse. “They’re a menace. They’re about as unpatriotic as billionaires can be, in my view. But they are virtually uncontested in Congress. Exxon Mobile and the rest of the fossil fuel industry is with them on this …

“But they’re not that big, compared to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Sales Force, Bank of America, Black Rock, Goldman Sachs, Coke, Pepsi, Ford, GM, you know. There’s a huge number of American companies that take climate change seriously that don’t deny any of it, that want us to stay in [the Paris Accords…]”

But,

“They don’t show up in Congress,” said Whitehouse. “They don’t show up.”

“When you say they don’t, what do you mean, with checks?” asked the woman.

“They don’t lobby [against climate change,]” said Whitehouse.

“I mean, the corporations shouldn’t matter, right?” asked the woman.

“If you are a Republican,” said Whitehouse, “Corporations matter. To us [Democrats], less so. If you’re a Republican, [and] you’re looking at this issue, you’re looking at a fossil fuel industry that is on the field with like a Soviet May Day Parade of political weaponry. And you’re looking at the rest of corporate America, 100 times as big, or ten times or 50 or whatever the number is, but waaay bigger, and there’s just nobody there. It’ just crickets.

“That is changing,” said Whitehouse. “I’ve been on their case, raising hell about them and pointing out publicly that they say one thing to the public and they say another thing to the Congress. And that’s not right,” said Whitehouse. “The great American Corporation ought to be able to align its politics with its policy.

“I think that’s shifting. I think there’s a move under way. I know some things I’m not at liberty to disclose where I think they’re actually ramping up, putting the throttle forward. And you could have a situation where the House puts out a bipartisan climate bill, the 2020 electorate is fed up and isn’t going to take it any longer, and the Republicans realize it so they know they’ve got to do something, corporate pressure for the first time is being put on the Republicans to do a darn bill!” said Whitehouse.

“We’re not going to support you guys any more unless you do a darn bill!” Whitehouse imagines corporations telling Republicans. “Cut it out! We’re bigger than the Koch Brothers. Stop doing what they say!

“That’s not that hard. You put those three things together and we’re legislating again,” said Whitehouse.

“So,” asked another woman in the room. “Is there an effective way for citizens to apply pressure to corporate America?”

“Yes,” said Whitehouse.

“What would be the best way to do that?” asked the woman.

“There’s a group called CERES that organizes corporations,” said Whitehouse. “Showing [CERES] support would be good.”

Unlike Senator Whitehouse, CERES supports the Green New Deal1. CERES is “a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Through powerful networks and advocacy, Ceres tackles the world’s biggest sustainability challenges, including climate change, water scarcity and pollution, and human rights abuses.”

“Frankly,” continued Whitehouse, “however you communicate [on] social media, and just saying, ‘Hey! I was with Senator Whitehouse and he says that the big American corporations aren’t really doing anything in Congress on climate change. What’s up with that? Why aren’t they doing that?’

“Put some pressure on them. They’ve done nothing in Congress because nobody noticed. Nobody called them out on it.

“So we’re calling them out on it and I think that’s going to change their behavior,” said Whitehouse.

“Companies like Coke and Pepsi are very customer sensitive. If they think that they’re going to lose customers because they say one thing about climate change but in Congress, they don’t put their money where their mouth is. That’s not a good look for them. But if nobody’s looking, it doesn’t matter that it’s not a good look for them. So help spread the word.

“…The Amazons and the Apples that you really can’t get out of your life – the Googles – they are still very sensitive to their public reputations,” said Whitehouse. “They work very hard to be green and to look green. They have this little embarrassment off to the side which is – [whispering] ‘When it comes to Congress we actually don’t care.'”

“Raising [this issue], saying, ‘What’s up with this?’ Why is it that Google and Microsoft and Apple and Facebook don’t care about climate change when it comes to Congress, particularly when they’re so good every place else? Even that message will be important to them.

“They’ve got new allies in the financial community because the financial community is looking a a potential real meltdown because of… [declining] coastal values, and another real meltdown from the companies that are basically lying about their assets and reserves. Those financial risks are now being taken so seriously that the top financial regulator in the United Kingdom, the Bank of England, is warning, ‘Look out guys! Train wreck ahead. And though nobody from America did anything serious at the most recent conference of the parties, the most recent COP, $32 trillion worth of investment got together and said, ‘Whoa. We got to put the brakes on this train.’

“So they’re moving on their own and their owns fears so if we can get the consumer products with them it ill be indeed good,” said Whitehouse.


Watch the video here:


See also:


UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:
Become a Patron!

  1. CERES CEO and President Mindy Lubber wrote the following in a press release:

    “The Green New Deal resolution — while still a blueprint — is the first ambitious proposal that we have seen from Congress that takes into account the scope and scale of the global climate challenge, and acknowledges its economic, social, and equity implications. The resolution will help to inform and shape the conversation around climate solutions that promote jobs and economic prosperity, while providing a foundation for lawmakers to build and raise their ambition on action.

    “We expect that the ideas contained within the Green New Deal resolution will re-energize not only policymakers in Washington, and states and cities around the country, but also the investors and companies with whom we work, to find common ground on solutions to the greatest challenge of our time. Ceres has long advocated for a comprehensive bipartisan solution to climate change that includes market-based policies, such as a price on carbon pollution, and effective and efficient regulations.

    “While we applaud the leadership of House lawmakers and look forward to an ongoing discussion of the specific elements within the Green New Deal proposal, we will continue our work to highlight the economic and business case for climate action, focusing on increasing bipartisan ambition toward solutions that build a more sustainable and equitable low-carbon economy and planet.”


Share this story
retro
About Steve Ahlquist 1030 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com