Dems up for reelection target of Americans for Prosperity carbon tax campaign

Conservative outside group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is launching a six-figure advertising campaign pressing vulnerable Democrats to oppose a carbon tax.

The month-long online effort will span 15 states and cost $175,000. It will target three Democratic senators up for reelection in 2014 — Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.) — as well as 10 House members.

“Carbon taxes are bad for American industry and jobs,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. “They drive up utility bills and the cost of gasoline for American families and businesses, all while hurting job growth and driving business overseas. Deliberately driving up energy prices is a bad approach that slows economic activity.”

AFP is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, who made their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry.

Conservatives and industry oppose putting a price on carbon, as they say would slow economic activity, raise the cost of energy-intensive products and increase electricity rates.

On the other hand, many liberal Democrats, public health groups and environmental organizations support a carbon tax. They say it would properly account for environmental, property and health damage caused by carbon emissions, as well as mitigate climate change.

The idea of a carbon tax has generated plenty of Capitol Hill buzz, but not much substance.

Some conservative groups, such as the American Enterprise Institute, have floated it as a way to generate more revenues for the Treasury. It’s also a favorite for climate activists, as it would likely greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A carbon tax has surfaced in a handful of policy papers as a recommendation for congressional tax-writing panels as they dive into a potential overhaul of the federal tax code.

Passing such a measure in the current Congress, however, is largely a pipe dream for its advocates.

The GOP-controlled House wouldn’t touch a carbon tax, and a majority of the Senate — though not Begich, Udall or Hagan — opposed the concept in a March vote on the nonbinding Senate Democratic budget proposal.

On top of that, the Obama administration has said it would not pursue a carbon tax.

— This story was updated at 10:50 a.m. on June 6.