GOP-linked dark money group targets House progressives to kill reconciliation bill
An opaque “pro-climate” group launched critical digital ads days after Democrats announced historic climate deal
[Update 8/8/2022]: We partnered with Judd Legum at Popular Information to do some additional reporting on this group. You can read the full story here.
Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin managed to surprise nearly everyone in DC when they announced their Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) last Wednesday. In doing so, they caught the Republican Party flatfooted - at a moment when they were already on the back foot over abortion, same-sex marriage, and the burn pits debacle - and now the GOP machinery is scrambling to kill the bill, which must first pass the Senate in a party-line reconciliation package.
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On Saturday, July 30th, a 501c4 “dark money” nonprofit called United for Clean Power quietly launched a series of digital ads calling on progressive members of the U.S. House to “demand environmental justice or kill the reconciliation bill.”
The organization’s ads target districts represented by members of the progressive “Squad” in the House of Representatives, and so far they’ve spent $9,900 on Google ads and around $11,500 on Meta ads since July 30th.
Check out their ad here:
The organization has also shelled out major dollars to sponsor several issues of POLITICO’s New York Playbook Newsletter since earlier year. A weekly takeover of that newsletter can cost around $20,000. 👀
The organization’s recent ads struck us as deeply strange - practically every Democrat in Congress seems to be working toward Yes on this bill, and climate groups on the Left from Sunrise Movement to Earthjustice are calling for its swift passage…So, what exactly is United for Clean Power?
There is scarce information online about who is behind the organization. The organization’s Facebook page was created in early 2015, but it has no real information on the group, and their posts this week criticize the Inflation Reduction Act as “only a small fraction of what this administration said they were going to accomplish” and “this plan doesn’t do nearly enough.”
Their one-page Wordpress website was created in October 2020 and its domain was registered by a third party. On July 27, 2022, the same day Schumer and Manchin announced their agreement, they created their YouTube channel, and they were up with ads across platforms on July 30th.
Whoever created United for Clean Power laid the digital groundwork for pop-up campaigns like this years ago in case they ever needed a climate-focused brand to utilize. Several readers flagged for us that the group ran some type of campaign in an Ohio state legislative race years ago, spent several thousand dollars in an Oklahoma State Senate campaign, and received money from a now-defunct right-wing dark money group in 2015. In November 2020, they ran YouTube ads backing a spoiler Green-party candidate in a competitive Oregon State Senate race, whose candidacy ultimately cost the Democratic nominee the election.
FWIW was able to locate the organization’s 2018 and 2019 IRS 990 forms, which reveal the organization’s only major expenditure was to pay Republican firm Majority Strategies $135,000 for “advertising.”.
According to FEC data, Majority Strategies has worked to elect countless Republican climate deniers to Congress and other elected offices, including recently for Sarah Palin’s campaign for Congress in Alaska this year. The firm last week published research urging their clients to invest in digital ads instead of exclusively focusing on traditional TV ads.
We reached out to United for Clean Power and Majority Strategies for comment, but have not received a response.
Because of the group’s obscurity and opacity, we can’t be 100% certain of this organization’s motives. However, due to their recent posts critical of the Inflation Reduction Act and past Republican ties, we think there’s a likelihood that this is some type of cynical astroturf campaign to stop the Senate’s reconciliation bill dead in its tracks.
Either way, it’s important for advocates of the IRA’s climate provisions to be aware of this campaign, and we’ll continue keeping an eye on the group’s movements, especially in these critical days leading up to a vote on the legislation.
Have more info on United for Clean Power’s work? Send us an email!
Note 8/3: This story was updated to reflect updated/increased spending numbers and additional research showing ties to right-wing groups.