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Pennsylvania families are caught in a game of cronies

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By Andrew Langer
Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of coal miners and fellow union members marched in Pittsburgh to protest the biggest threat to their jobs, families and future — an out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined to destroy coal mining in America.

After toiling in the mines for generations to power America and better their families, miners are watching their own government destroy their livelihood. And they aren't alone. Manufacturing and steel mill workers have seen their industries crushed by the heavy hand of government climate crusaders.

Washington policymakers and social planners are telling these families that their sacrifice is necessary to protect the world from carbon-based energy. In reality, they may well be pawns in a game of cronyism and political profiteering as billionaires, hedge funds and corporate investors line up to line their pockets with taxpayer giveaways, tax loopholes and stimulus funds.

Tom Steyer, a San Francisco Democrat and self-proclaimed environmental activist, is one such profiteer. Mr. Steyer made millions investing in coal overseas but now claims a change of heart in order to “save the planet.” Steyer has spent close to $2 million attacking Gov. Tom Corbett on behalf of Democrat candidate Tom Wolf. The attack on Corbett is just a portion of a $100 million ad campaign Steyer is promising to rid the world of fossil fuels like coal.

Steyer has repeatedly claimed he has no financial interests in the policies and politicians he supports but the facts show otherwise. Steyer has attacked the Keystone pipeline, yet was an investor in a competing pipeline. He has used his government connections to obtain “green grants” and has benefited from the EPA-pushed mandates that drive up the price of energy for the rest of us.

While Steyer's ads attempt to attack Corbett by tying him to lobbyists, Steyer fails to disclose that over the past decade, his lobbyists have secured over $1 billion in grants, earmarks, stimulus funds and giveaways from the federal government to benefit his development project in Mission Bay, Calif. Most of these funds were secured with the assistance of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Some $5 million went directly into the treasury of a subsidiary controlled by Steyer's company.

So far this year, Steyer is the single largest political donor in America, having spent over $20 million with more to come. It would seem to require a degree of naïveté to believe that such largess is unconnected to politicians' decision to open the federal spigot for him.

For Steyer, this game is a win-win. He got rich investing in coal and is now using that wealth to kill the industry to benefit the green technologies currently padding his wealth.

For coal miners and factory workers in Pennsylvania, this game is a lose-lose. Not only are they watching their livelihoods wither away, they are being forced to watch Steyer spend millions of dollars in TV ads filled with his condescending hypocritical attacks. Adding further insult, Pennsylvanians now know that thanks to the politicians who plied Steyer with over $1 billion in federal money, the very same families he seeks to put out of work may well be subsidizing his efforts to do so.

Andrew Langer is president of the Institute for Liberty.

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