Politicians’ addiction to money augments global addiction to oil

The gas-guzzling cars and trucks that dominate American roadways will gradually be replaced and many observers of the auto and energy industries say that there is already a growing demand for electric vehicles.

Automakers see it coming. So do some consumers. It’s a matter of time before electric vehicles — EVs in industry parlance — take over, although how much time isn’t clear.

The owner of a Tesla Supercharger said his electric fueling costs are far lower than gasoline; there are fewer parts to service in the battery-run cars; and the only things he has to worry about replacing are tires, wiper blades and the air filter.

Lisa McCormick, an New Jersey environmentalist and progressive policy advocate, said she wouldn’t be surprised if half of the new cars sold by the end of the decade are powered by electricity.

While she called electric cars “disruptive technology” that will infiltrate the country in a similar manner to air conditioning and cellphones, McCormick said that things could go much faster if there was less tolerance for political corruption.

“We have not only been addicted to oil but politicians are addicted to dirty money, which has an outsized influence on our political system,” said McCormick. “It should be possible for voters to discern which candidates are beholden to malignant influences such as the oil industry, which is why I pledged not to take contributions from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, and PACs.”

McCormick said candidates should instead prioritize the health of our families, the environment, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits but the prospect of change look bleak.

The US for the first time was recently included on a list of ‘backsliding’ democracies, in part due to a slew of state legislation passed in recent months that make it harder for some voters to cast their ballots.

“The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” the International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy 2021 report said.

Fernand de Varennes, a United Nations human rights expert, has denounced measures in some states such as Texas, that he said may undermine democracy by denying millions of people belonging to visible minority groups the equal right to vote.

Candidates in the last few presidential elections lined up billionaire mega-donors and exploited a loophole in campaign finance rules that allowed them to create supposedly ‘independent’ political groups— which are allowed to accept unlimited donations—and raising vast sums for those super PACs that are entirely integrated with their campaign.

Super PACS, which sprang to life in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, can accept unlimited donations from wealthy individuals and from corporations. And under the current system, groups unaffiliated with a candidate can spend unlimited amounts of money on advertisements to promote that candidate.

Although the vast majority of Americans want to see changes in the campaign finance system, that doesn’t mean it will happen.

“You’re not going to get a change before the next election cycle,” said Rick Hasen, a campaign finance regulation expert and professor of law and political science at UC-Irvine School of Law. “Any changes to the rules before an election become complicated by its effects on the upcoming election.”

Since 1990, the oil and gas industry spent $795 million influencing politicians, a sector that regularly pumps the vast majority of its campaign contributions into Republican coffers.

Since the 1990 election cycle, more than two-thirds of this sector’s contributions from PACs and individuals to candidates and party committees have gone to Republicans but millions of dollars also flow to enough Democrats that progress has been stopped on efforts to break the world’s oil addiction.

Candidates who refuse to address urgent issues because that may offend donors they need to wage viable campaigns are unworthy of public support but until voters take time to figure out who’s who, well-funded candidates are going to run roughshod over well-intentioned ones.

If democracy is to survive, voters must assert themselves and work harder to identify the contenders who deserve their support.

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