Sunday, April 27, 2014

Behind the Ad: Anti-Keystone pipeline group targets Sen. Rubio

By Richard K. Barry

Who: NextGen Climate (billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer's political action group)


Where: On Florida NBC affiliates in Miami, Tampa and Tallahassee


What's going on: The ad is aimed at Sen. Marco Rubio as it presses him to ask pipeline developer TransCanada where the petroleum transported on Keystone XL will ultimately end up. The point of this is to suggest that the oil, after being refined, will benefit foreign countries. The "money line" in the add is "Rubio, don't be taken for a sucker."


In a bizarre approach, Rubio was chosen as a target of the attack ad after Steyer's group asked people to vote online on who should be the object of their attention. Rubio won!

According to The Hill, "Democrat strategist and one of Steyer's close advisers, Chris Lehnane, has said one of Steyer's priorities is to help Democrats keep the majority." Given that support for the pipelines cuts across party lines, it's difficult, however, to understand how this particular effort could be effective as a partisan tool. For example, Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu has appeared on the Steyer hit list.

Bottom line is that third party money is a blunt instrument in elections and doesn't always promote what you would think is the intended end game. Single issue efforts are particularly like that.


Grade: It's an interesting approach. If one argues Keystone as an environmental issues, the battle lines are clearer. Back in the 70's there was a famous bumper sticker that read: "Unemployed? Eat an Environmentalist." But to argue based on the issue of energy independence to say that the pipeline will really benefit foreign interests, is something else. Americans love their xenophobia. It potentially changes the premise of the debate to one those opposing the pipeline could win. B

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