The Public Policy

“It’s Not About the Money”

It's payback time for the environmental lobby.

By 3.23.09

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Put the FBI on notice: the "NRDC mafia" is in town. At least that's how they are described in the New York Times, which identifies seven high-ranking former Natural Resources Defense Council employees who have accepted influential positions working for members of Congress and in the Obama administration.

The Times reports that NRDC staffers have gone to work for EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, House energy and environment subcommittee chair Ed Markey (D-MA), House energy and commerce chairman Henry Waxman, and other members of Congress. And of course they want these jobs only because they want to do the right thing

It's no surprise when elected officials hand out political favors to their favorites -- and the opposition cries foul. Remember when government contracts for Halliburton were mired in controversy because Dick Cheney was once the company's president? Now that the Democrats are in power, it's out with evil "industry" influences and in with the environmental crowd.

Greens don't see it that way. According to one NRDC source, it's completely unfair to "equate our revolving door" with the Bush administration's. Republicans hire their industry buddies to cash in, but for greens, it's "not about the money."

Sure. Ignore the fact that the non-profit NRDC generated more than $75 million, according the Guide to Nonprofit Advocacy, and that according to IRS documents, NRDC typically raises a surplus of more than $10 million per year. But it isn't about the money.

NRDC can't pay salaries as large as Halliburton. But the "NRDC mafia" now has the clout to overturn current U.S. environmental policy and cost businesses and taxpayers billions of dollars. Talk about kneecapping the American economy.

It's payback time for the environmental lobby. In November of 2008, NRDC lost a Supreme Court case when it tried to stop the U.S. Navy from using sonar in training exercises off the California coast. The Court dismissed its claim that saving sea life was more important than national defense.

Now that it's in charge, NRDC has gone on record to say that the rules established to protect our national defenses "cr[y] out for transparent, good faith review by an administration in which good science unquestionably matters."

In the current economic crisis, NRDC is pushing for costly cap and trade policies to be passed. But cap and trade is nothing more than a very expensive tax that businesses will have to pass on to consumers -- at a time when American consumers can ill afford to see prices rise.

Through cap and trade, NRDC hopes to take money from inexpensive energy industries, like coal and oil, to increase government revenues so the government can increase spending in job-killing industries such as wind and solar energies. These industries always promise to "create" millions of new jobs, at the unstated cost of many more millions of jobs lost.

It will be difficult to reject some of the policies championed by the "NRDC mafia," especially as they continue to grow government and gain even more influence. For now they might be happy to kneecap the economy, but it isn't hard to imagine them eventually sending it to sleep with the fishes.

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About the Author

Eric Heidenreich is a writer in Alexandria, Virginia.