Usually advocacy groups avoid spending money on attack ads against politicians they can’t beat. But the brand-new 2020 Action Fund, challenging Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe in deep-red Oklahoma, is in it for the long haul.
Even the spokesman for the Boston-based group calls its new ad “borderline bizarre.”
The bizarre starts with a metaphor: old stock footage of a guy kicking another guy in the rear, repeatedly. The ad blames Inhofe for opposing energy independence, good wages and jobs. Then comes an impressionistic collage of images including a spinning globe, a man eating something, flying dollar signs, some sort of parade and money grabbed from a table. Words appear on the screen saying “15 Months $2 Trillion…Gone From Your Pensions.”
Get it? That’s Inhofe doing the kicking, and Oklahoma taking it. The ad’s punch line: “Kick back, Oklahoma.”
It’s far from clear in the ad, but the 2020 Action Fund is dedicated to opposing politicians who get in the way of climate change legislation. The number one target: Inhofe, who, as ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, has railed against global warming concerns and called the problem a “hoax.”
The 2020 Action Fund was incorporated this month by Brooke Coleman, whose other roles include founder of the Northeast Biofuels Collaborative, the New Fuels Alliance and the Renewable Energy Action Project. You get the picture.
The group is a 501(c)(4) with a related 510(c)(3) called the 2020 Project. Another 2020 Project campaign is FoodPriceTruth.org, which gets financial support from the biofuels industry and defends ethanol against a “smear campaign.”
The 2020 Project was founded by Coleman, as well as Miles Cooley and William Kheel. Cooley is a California lawyer who is also on the board of the John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Kheel is a media consultant who has worked for the organizations of a relative, famed labor lawyer Ted Kheel, as well as corporations like Motorola and Walt Disney.
“We are concerned about the direction of the country,” Coleman told us. The 2020 Action Fund wants to reduce the country’s dependence on petroleum, but from a different angle than most environmentalists. Since climate change is “abstract” to most people and it’s hard to wage political war on the issue, the group aims to target politicians on whatever issues they are vulnerable — all in the unsaid name of renewable energy and a sustainable future. Check out the group’s Web site on Inhofe and there’s nary a mention of the environment.
“You don’t pay a real steep price for voting against renewable energy credits,” Coleman says. “We want to be part of the price. We want to play in election time and we want to play when climate change [legislation] comes up in 2009. We’re not going to do the people that we’re targeting any favors.”
The group plans to monitor progress on climate change in 2009, draw up a list of the main “obstructionists” and target the top culprits for the 2010 eleciton cycle.
For now, it’s Inhofe. But the group doesn’t have any illusions about defeating him. “We’re not really in this to beat him,” Coleman says. “We’re in this to announce our presence.”
This originally appeared on The Secret Money Project Blog, a joint project of CIR and National Public Radio tracking the hidden cash in the 2008 election.