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Environmentalists Turn To Campaign Finance Reform To Advance Cause

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Environmentalists say their cause has been stymied by corporate political spending.
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Environmentalists say their cause has been stymied by corporate political spending.

Environmental advocates are changing their strategy to combat global warming: they're now lobbying for campaign finance reform.

Environmentalists want a cap and trade bill to curb pollution, but they say it can't happen with oil and gas companies dumping tens of millions of dollars on congressional elections. Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International says reforms on campaign spending need to precede climate legislation.

"We are unlikely to get anything that is worth its salt until and unless we have significant campaign finance reform and until people here in Washington listen more to the people and less to the polluters," Kretzmann says.

That's why environmental groups are tossing their support behind Congressman John Sarbane's (D-Md.) Government By The People Act.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections, it would offer tax credits to small donors.

"That would provide some additional assistance to candidates to face the SuperPACs and outside money," Sarbanes says. "It would create a different way of raising money for campaigns and would put power back in the hands of everyday people, back in the hands of the public and the people."

Erich Pica is president of Friends of the Earth. He says the bill's offer of a six to one matching ratio for campaign donations would give environmental voters a leg up against corporations.

"We have hundreds of thousands and millions of members who are just ordinary people who want to give and contribute," Pica says. "This bill will allow them to do that and match up to $150 up to 6 times."

Political observers say it may be easier to get a climate change bill through Congress than getting any changes to campaign finance to the president's desk.

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