When ‘Moderate’ Democrats Aren’t

Part of the lefty side of the discourse, such as it is, is too quick to lob the epithet neo-liberal at people who genuinely don’t agree with or think it’s practical to enact left-wing policies. I think they’re wrong, but they are being honest. And then there are those who really are corporate shills (boldface mine):

…cities and states across the U.S. are seeking damages from oil, gas, and coal companies whose products drive the crisis and which for years evidently engaged in disinformation and denial campaigns to stall climate action.

Now the fossil fuel industry is pushing back, taking a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook to rein in that liability litigation, and getting help from an unexpected source…

One of the outfits promoting the efforts to counter the slew of climate lawsuits is none other than the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a center-left Washington, D.C.-based think tank with links to the Democratic party.

Phil Goldberg, PPI’s director of its Center for Civil Justice, is leading the charge.

For over a year, PPI’s website has been showcasing Goldberg’s work attacking climate litigation, which he calls “copycat climate suits.” Goldberg is a former lobbyist for coal giant Peabody Energy, which his law firm still represents.

And while Goldberg’s bio on PPI’s website lists him as a partner in the corporate law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, there’s no mention of his hiring earlier this year by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to serve as special counsel in its fight against climate litigation. NAM’s Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, which it launched in 2017, targets climate lawsuits against the manufacturing industry’s energy sector…

PPI’s website also does not disclose Goldberg’s recent work for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN), a front group funded by several oil and gas trade associations. In a report for GAIN titled “Vigilante Regulation,” Goldberg, along with two other Shook, Hardy & Bacon attorneys, detail how tort law can be employed to stem what the authors call “anti-pipeline activism.”

“It’s just plain freaky that a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry would pretend to be neutral or, shockingly, even perhaps ‘progressive’ under the guise of PPI, which has a good reputation as a think tank,” said Denise Antolini, an associate dean at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa’s School of Law. “I guess the ‘tank’ is stronger than the ‘think’ with PPI’s embrace of Mr. Goldberg’s advocacy for big oil.”

Goldberg previously served as an adviser to the Civil Justice Task Force of the “corporate bill mill,” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he published reports against state-led climate lawsuits in the group’s publication Inside ALEC.

ALEC, which works secretively with legislators to produce model legislation on behalf of its corporate sponsors, has a history of climate change denial and funding from fossil fuel interests and the Koch brothers’ foundations.

Goldberg’s colleague at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, attorney Mark Behrens, currently chairs ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force. Another lawyer at the firm, Victor Schwartz, previously chaired the task force and is currently a member of ALEC’s board of scholars.

After going to bat for decades for Big Tobacco, Shook, Hardy & Bacon is now a leading defender of the asbestos industry, whose product causes a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.

It actually gets worse. I realize everyone has to keep the doors open, but this is awful. Moreover, there’s no intellectual honesty here–this is not moderation, but simply dollars for policy. So when they want to engage in ‘debate’, just ignore them.

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