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Senator Murkowski Is In Trouble; More Intel on the Koch Brothers

August 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Alaska’s two-term Senator Lisa Murkowski is more than 1,600 votes behind in the Republican primary, with nearly all precincts reporting. State election officials are now counting the 7,600 absentee ballots, and results should be known next week.

Recall that in June, the Senate voted 53 to 47 to block Senator Murkowski’s resolution to rescind the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Her tight re-election race could have ramifications for a second Senate attack on the Clean Air Act expected next year. The FiveThirty Eight blog predicts that Democrats will lose six or seven seats in the Senate in November, but retain a narrow 52-48 or 53-47 majority.

If Murkowski wins, she’s likely to again lead a conservative coalition against the federal clean air law that this year attracted six Democrats to vote with Republicans. If she loses, it’s not clear if the coalition will mount another attack.

Murkowski’s primary opponent, by the way, is Joe Miller, a Tea Party-backed West Point graduate, Gulf War vet, and denier of climate science who won, in part, on a message that accused the incumbent of being a “closeted liberal.” Say what?

If the FiveThirtyEight Senate election prediction is close – the blog was spot-on accurate during the 2008 presidential election – the final months of this year and all of 2011 will at least set clearer lines of engagement on climate and the Clean Air Act. The skirmishing over policy and advocacy will be no less grueling. But if the Clean Air Act is threatened in the Senate, the battle lines will be well defined.

In other words, when targets and outcomes are plainly visible, the environmental community has a long and proven history of going toe to toe successfully with anyone. That includes the Koch brothers of Kansas City. In March, Greenpeace published “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding The Climate Denial Machine.” The report makes clear that Koch Industries is, and has been for over a decade, a stalwart institution, financier, and strategic adviser for the fossil fuel industry’s political infrastructure aimed at one outcome: Blocking the advent of the low-carbon 21st century economy and wrapping its arms as snugly as it can around the 20th century drive-through, energy wasting, coal-gas-oil-fueled American way of life.

In the most recent issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer cites the Greenpeace study and considerably advances the story of how the Koch brothers have declared war on climate science and the Obama administration. It’s must reading for climate activists. Congratulations to Greenpeace for doing the heavy lifting that clearly helped get The New Yorker interested.

Keith Schneider, a journalist and multi-media producer, is senior writer at the US Climate Action Network. Reach him at


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