Climate

Of the many, interlinked crises that define American life in the 2020s, perhaps none is as literally existential as climate change. The next presidential term will cover about half of the remaining years the United Nations estimates Earth has to prevent catastrophic and irreversible global warming.

Incalculable, world-historic pain and suffering are already happening as a result of the climate crisis. Yet the forces of big business responsible — most especially the fossil fuel industry, but also Big Ag, the military-industrial complex, and others — continue to spend tens of millions every year blackmailing American leaders into softballing or even ignoring the literal end of the world as we know it.

The Revolving Door Project has taken a two-pronged approach to aid in the fight for government action on the scale of the climate emergency. First, we have researched and raised alarms about the tools which climate change-exacerbating industries, including the fossil fuel industry, use to ossify the departments and regulatory agencies which should be holding them accountable. We highlighted corrupt Trump appointee Andrew Wheeler’s degradation of the Environmental Protection Agency in our collaborative “Swamp Tour” with the Progressive Change Institute. We tracked and exposed political contributions from influential fossil fuel figures in our Presidential Power Map. And we’ve raised alarms about fossil fuel allies sidling up to the Joe Biden campaign, as the Project’s Miranda Litwak and Max Moran wrote about in The Intercept.

We’ve also sought to show that climate change is a whole-of-government problem, just as it is a whole-of-society problem. Scattered across the executive branch are far more powers and appointees relevant to saving the planet than just those in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Department of Energy (DOE). As our Jeff Hauser told Kate Aronoff, “You could have the best EPA Administrator in the world. If they get overruled by OMB or NEC, it’s kind of irrelevant how good they are or how hard they fight.”

For example, financial regulators can set rules to disincentivize lending to climate-degrading industries, especially regulators who sit on the powerful Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). BlackRock, the world’s largest investor in fossil fuel, aggressively lobbied little-known regulatory agencies which still have seats on FSOC to insulate it from a level of oversight which could have substantially changed its behavior. We have been at the forefront of calling out BlackRock’s practice of hiring Democrats in an effort to “greenwash” their brand.

Revolving Door Project aims to keep this kind of deep inside-game from ever being exploited again. To that end, we’ve integrated climate change into all of our other lines of inquiry into corporate capture of the executive branch. Most of the world had never heard of Larry Summers’ horrific record on climate issues until the Revolving Door Project wrote about it and shared our research with allies. Now, his history of wrist-slapping the fossil fuel industry played a key role in the surge of pushback that led him to officially refuse any job in a Biden administration.

Whether it’s installing Justice Department officials ready to prosecute polluters to the fullest extent of the law, or setting new rules at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to screen all government spending projects for climate equity, there are considerable actions the executive branch can take to reorient our governance around the overriding need to protect our planet. Max Moran detailed several of these for The American Prospect in July. There are also important gatekeepers scattered across the executive branch which environmentalists must know how to overcome to get the change we desperately need: the most prominent of these is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which our Jeff Hauser wrote about in September.

Likewise, the forces arrayed against climate action are more sophisticated than just oil lobbyists and pipeline executives. Too often, individuals with seemingly strong climate credentials revolve out of government and into influence-industry positions secretly funded by the fossil fuel industry — be they think tanks, academic institutions, or the greenwashing divisions of major investment corporations. These seemingly upstanding institutions provide moral cover to the allies of Big Oil, allowing them to list an employer which sounds more respectable than ExxonMobil or Shell, even if these companies are the ones really paying the bills.

The Revolving Door Project aims to expose these front groups, and prevent anyone willing to take under-the-table cash from the fossil fuel industry from exerting power in the federal government again. The stakes of the climate crisis leave us morally obligated to use every tool in the executive toolbelt that can prevent irreparable harm, and to shield the government from anyone willing to accept anything less.

Below you will find some of the project’s writing and research on climate policy. For a selection of quotes and interviews on the topic, please visit this page.

March 23, 2021

Vishal Shankar

Blog Post

ClimateExecutive BranchForeign PolicyRevolving DoorTreasury Department

Revolver Spotlight: Elizabeth Rosenberg

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a lesser-known Obama-era official, is being considered to lead the Treasury Department’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence unit. Her record designing painful economic sanctions, supporting fossil fuel industry-friendly policies, and helping powerful corporations gain close access to the highest levels of government is cause for alarm, writes Vishal Shankar.

March 16, 2021

Dorothy Slater Eleanor Eagan Max Moran

Blog Post

ClimateFinancial RegulationIndependent Agencies

FSOC 101: How Each Member Of The Financial Stability Oversight Council Can Fight Climate Change

Title 1 of the Dodd-Frank Act Title established the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) just over a decade ago. Prior to its arrival, there was no cross-agency government body tasked with protecting the financial system from systemic risks. FSOC was created to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 2008 financial crisis and to be a safeguard against financial practices with the potential to wreak global havoc.

March 16, 2021

Dorothy Slater

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateFinancial RegulationIndependent Agencies

A Slam Dunk Climate Opportunity For Biden: Five Open Seats On The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

President Biden is being presented with a straightforward, simple opportunity to make good on his promise to take a whole-of-government approach to fighting climate change. Appointing climate leaders who will take urgent climate action even if their job descriptions do not explicitly mention the environment is one of the easiest and most important ways Biden can display integrity.

March 15, 2021 | Independent Media Institute

Elias Alsbergas

Op-Ed

ClimateCoronavirusEthics in GovernmentRevolving Door

When Public Officials Get Rented Out By Corporate Power, The People Lose

From Vivek Murthy’s lucrative consulting work with Netflix and Carnival Cruise Lines to Brian Deese’s “greenwashing” of fossil fuel investments at BlackRock, the revolving door between corporate industry and government continues to undermine public trust in the Biden Administration, writes our Elias Alsbergas.

March 10, 2021

Eleanor Eagan

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateEthics in Government

Biden Ethics Pledge Alone Will Not Insulate the Administration from Conflicts of Interest

On President Biden’s first day in office, he made clear that, after the Trump administration’s fantastically corrupt reign, restoring trust in the federal government’s senior leadership would be a priority. His executive order on ethics, signed within hours of his inauguration, went further than any other towards slowing the revolving door and limiting conflicts of interest while in office. Subsequent appointments make clear, however, that these elevated standards are still not enough. Simply following the letter of the order will leave significant room for conflicts of interest to poison the administration’s actions and public trust.

March 08, 2021

Dorothy Slater Max Moran

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateForeign PolicyPrivate Equity

Attn John Kerry: Mark Gallogly Is Loyal To Profit, Not Climate

John Kerry, President Biden’s international “Climate Envoy”, appears to want bold climate change policy. Kerry was a leader in developing the framework for the first UN climate talks in 1992, co-authored cap-and-trade legislation back in 2009 when it could have possibly been useful, and was a major driver of the 2015 Paris Agreement.