Activist groups have dumped more than $1.5 million into political ads targeting President Donald Trump’s nominees to head the Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Public interest groups spent an expected $784,000 on television ads opposing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA, according to an E&E News analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG advertising. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, attracted an estimated $851,000 in negative ad spending during his confirmation hearings.
The ad spending – which topped out at about $1.6 million – may have been much higher. Data from Kantar Media did not include, for instance, digital ads or those that ran on local channels.
Environmental Defense Action Fund and billionaire-backed NextGen Climate Action ran the bulk of the television ads opposing Pruitt.
NextGen’s founder, Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, spent $564,000 on the Pruitt ads, while EDF Action plowed $218,000 into efforts to scuttle the Oklahoma Republican’s nomination.
The ads targeted vulnerable Republican senators. Activists hoped to pressure the lawmakers into voting against Pruitt, who has engaged in more than 12 lawsuits against the EPA, mostly over concerns the agency’s Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.
“The strategy was to put pressure on senators who had to vote on his confirmation to demonstrate the significant public health impacts that a Pruitt EPA would have,” David Di Martino, a partner at Blue Engine Message & Media, told E&E Legal Thursday. He said the ads were also meant to highlight the AG’s supposedly poor track record on environmental issues.
“The other strategic imperative was to highlight the flaws in the nominee, to frame him in a negative light as he takes over the EPA, if he is confirmed tomorrow,” said Di Martino, who has worked alongside environmental groups opposing Pruitt.
Maine, for instance, was pelted with anti-Pruitt ads running on a loop in the Bangor and Portland markets.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, wilted under the pressure. She became the first and only GOP lawmaker to vote against Pruitt.
“Due to my concerns about Mr. Pruitt’s commitment to the mission of the EPA, I will cast my vote in opposition to his confirmation,” Collins said in a statement. Her primary objection was related to her concerns that Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt’s numerous lawsuits against the agency could create conflict of interests.
All the spending and posturing fell on deaf ears however, as both Pruitt and Tillerson were confirmed to their respective positions – the Senate voted for Pruitt on Friday, 52-46. The former Exxon CEO was confirmed on Feb.7.
Wealthy environmentalists got the brunt end of the stick in its campaign against Pruitt – and for Steyer, the EPA administrator’s victory is another failure in a long line of failures.
Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, has seen a series of political defeats since the elections of 2014. He spent about $163 million in the last two election cycles supporting Democratic candidates and liberal causes.
He was also a crucial cog in the campaign to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and spent millions trying to influence congressional Democrats to oppose it. All his work opposing the line went down the drain after Trump signed an executive order late January approving the project.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com