When the American Lung Association (ALA) placed provocative ads in Michigan’s 6th District targeting Republican Rep. Fred Upton, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, there was no shortage of outrage and calls of foul play.
The four ads – one of which was placed on a billboard right outside Upton’s district office – feature a girl wearing an oxygen mask. It reads, “Rep. Fred Upton, protect our kids’ health. Don’t weaken the Clean Air Act.”
Now, critics are accusing the ALA of using federal funds to pay for the ads, pointing to the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency has given the organization $20 million over the last decade. If true, the accusation would have a whole host of damaging consequences for the federal agency that is right now trying to defend its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, however, Paul Billings, Vice President of Advocacy at the ALA called the allegations “absurd.”
Though the ALA has secured competitive grants through federal agencies, said Billings, the group has acted in “full compliance with federal law in respect to those grants.” Billings added that none of the federal grant money is used for advocacy work. “Federal law would not permit such funds to be used for that purpose,” he told TheDC.
“They are taking two independent facts [that the ALA gets grant money, and also engages in sometimes provocative advocacy techniques] and somehow linking them and suggesting something unlawful is going on. There is no evidence to support that claim.”
Upton, in particular, is an ALA target because he has been instrumental in leading efforts on Capitol Hill to rein in the EPAs claim that they have the authority to regulate emissions lie carbon dioxide. Upton, along with Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, authored a bill to do just that.
The Upton bill passed the Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month. Inhofe’s companion bill in the Senate is expected to be voted on within the next month as an amendment to a small business bill.
The ALA wants to prevent that from happening. “We wanted to get Rep. Upton’s attention,” said Billings. “We wanted to take our message back to his district in a very visible way…we hope Upton is hearing the message.”