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Sheldon Whitehouse Hates Corporate Lobbying — Except When It Comes To Climate Change

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has been a longtime critic of money in politics, but the Rhode Island Democrat seemingly holds a different standard when it comes to corporate lobbying on behalf of environmental issues.

Since entering Congress in 2007, Sheldon Whitehouse has been an ardent opponent of big business influence in Washington, D.C. He has criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and has pushed for legislation that would more regulate campaign donations. Speaking at a town hall Sunday, Whitehouse called dark money in politics “issue one.”

As a testament to how much the New England Democrat cares about the subject, he went on to write a book on money and political influence. Titled “Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy,” Whitehouse claims that “corporations of vast wealth and remorseless staying power have moved into our politics to seize for themselves advantages that can be seized only by control over government.” Throughout the book, he complains of “immense pressure deployed by the corporate sector in our government.”

However, the Rhode Island lawmaker sings a different tune when it comes to lobbying on matters of his own interest. Whitehouse bemoaned on Twitter Monday that corporations weren’t doing enough to lobby for action on climate change — another cause he champions extensively in the Senate.

The tweet was in reference to a report on climate change’s lack of priority in Congress. Whitehouse — who is an opponent of lobbying — called for “good-guy” corporations to use their money to influence lawmakers into prioritizing environmental issues.

This isn’t the first time he has spoken about the business community needing to do more. Making similar statements in an op-ed for The Hill in 2017, Whitehouse called for corporations to lobby Congress to address climate change. “American corporations must also act and, unfortunately, they have been AWOL in the politics of climate change,” he wrote. “Now it is necessary that you organize with other like-minded corporations and use your collective political strength to press our political discourse toward a solution.”

The progressive lawmaker said in 2016 corporations need to be “shamed” into adopting his position on climate change. “Tom Donohue at the Chamber of Commerce ought to be shamed. [Rex] Tillerson at Exxon Mobile ought to be shamed and Charles Koch [CEO of Koch Industries] ought to be shamed,” Whitehouse said when appearing at a Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs discussion.

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