Andrea Saul, a key campaign operative and frequent spokesperson for Mitt Romney, previously worked as a lobbyist for the fossil fuels-friendly DCI Group. And precisely no one is surprised. But. A new Greenpeace briefing points out that while at DCI, Saul worked on some controversial campaigns; notably, lobbying on behalf of the authoritarian military regime in Myanmar and helping ExxonMobil wage a disinformation campaign about climate science in 2009.
From the briefing:
DCI’s efforts included campaigns to undermine climate legislation and to push counter messages and spokespeople to media on the connection between extreme weather and global warming. Saul’s extensive role in these DCI Group climate campaigns can be traced through archived documents and press releases.There's nothing particularly earth-shaking in here; it's not surprising in the slightest that a candidate eager to prove his conservative credentials would select an operative who hews far to the right on climate and energy issues. And she's indeed pretty impressively far to the right; if Greenpeace's report is correct, she's on par with Big Tobacco's top spin doctors from decades past. Read the whole report for the details, which are pretty fascinating in a train wreckish kind of way.
So it's worth considering the degree to which such operatives shape his campaign's take on the issues. For instance, the briefing collects some of statements Saul has made for Romney on climate issues. A sampling:
- “Gov. Romney does not think greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act, and he does not believe that the EPA should be regulating them,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “CO2 is a naturally occurring gas. Humans emit it every time they exhale.” Politico, July 2011 .
-Responding to charges that Romney had 'flip-flopped' on climate: "This is ridiculous. Governor Romney's view on climate change has not changed. He believes it's occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn't know to what extent. He opposes cap and trade, and he refused to sign such a plan when he was governor. Maybe the bigger threat is all the hot air coming from career politicians who are desperate to hold on to power." NPR, 2011
Now, I doubt that the Romney campaign's overall stance on climate has been swayed too dramatically by Saul's ideas—the entire congressional GOP is in an advanced state of climate denial, and Mitt's desperate to fit in. But she Saul provided a potent, slippery vocabulary with which to evade any meaningful confrontation with climate issues. Kate Sheppard puts it nicely:
"Given Saul's past, it's no surprise the Romney campaign's most mealy-mouthed statements on climate—including 'CO2 is a naturally occurring gas' and 'he believes it's occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn't know to what extent'—have come directly from her."