[dropcap]S[/dropcap]eizing upon conversations leaked to the media this week from a secretive Southern California fundraising retreat, environmental politics group NextGen Climate released a Web ad that seeks to underline U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner’s ties to oil-billionaires Charles and David Koch and the political network the two men bankroll.
“What happens behind closed doors at a Koch-funded retreat? Just ask Cory Gardner,” the ad begins. It then runs tape of Gardner talking about raising “between $10-to-$12 million” for his campaign and Tim Phillips, president of Koch organization Americans for Prosperity, playing down opposition campaign narratives that would paint Gardner as a lawmaker with a record of conservative positions that lie outside the mainstream. “Make sure they don’t define him as an extremist,” he says.
The ad ticks off positions Gardner has championed over many years as a lawmaker, in the Colorado Statehouse and on Capitol Hill. Gardner denies the science of climate change, votes for major oil-industry tax breaks, opposes gay marriage and supports hardline anti-abortion measures.
Mainly, though, the ad is part of a larger campaign by NextGen and other Democratic-aligned groups to establish Gardner’s ties to the Kochs and also to raise the question for voters: Are the billionaire Koch brothers’ interests and the policies they work to pass in Washington and in capitals around the country aligned with the interests of the public and the policies the majority of Americans would like to see put into effect?
They’re bet is that the answer is a big “No,” especially when those interests and policy positions are brought more fully to light.
The release that accompanied the NextGen ad cites an example that seems to do the job effectively. It points to Gardner’s movement on a bill that sought to promote the use and manufacture of natural gas cars by providing tax breaks for consumers and car makers and companies that convert their vehicle fleets from oil to natural gas.
In April 2011, Gardner co-sponsored the New Alternative Transportation To Give Americans Solutions Act. A month later, the Kochs’ Americans For Prosperity came out against the bill, calling it a government handout. A month after that, Gardner pulled his name from the bill.
NextGen cites the June 21, 2011, reaction of the conservative Greeley Tribune:
“A recent move by Rep. Cory Gardner has us scratching our heads a bit. Gardner, who represents Greeley and the 4th Congressional District, pulled his name off a bill that would promote the use of natural gas in commercial vehicles by giving companies tax credits to convert their fleets…we do know the congressman does receive significant campaign donations from interests who would rather not see this bill pass. Although his spokeswoman denies that has anything to do with Gardner’s decision, it still leaves creates some questions about his motives.”
Coloradans, in general, support cleanish and cleaner energy — natural gas as a bridge to renewables. The 4th District is home to a natural-gas boom. Sentiment in the state and in the district also runs high in favor of any attempt to ween the country off of foreign oil, which was how supporters of the New Alternative Transportation bill pitched it.
Gardner likely was thinking about all of that when he co-sponsored the bill. Yet, for Gardner, it seems apparent, the Koch-AFP agenda prevailed.