By Zack Colman - 07/16/13 09:00 AM EDT
As early as Thursday, AEA will launch a two-week radio advertising campaign that targets five House lawmakers — four Democrats and one Republican.
The ad blitz, which will cost between $120,000 and $150,000, targets Democratic Reps. Bill Owens (N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.) and William Enyart (Ill.), along with GOP Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.).
AEA chose to focus on members who have been “soft on the carbon tax issue” and reside in “marginal districts,” Cole said.
“We obviously are ones to apply pressure in any way we can,” he said.
The timing of the IER and AEA operation is designed to get energy issues on the agenda when lawmakers meet with voters in their congressional districts, Cole said.
He said the climate change plan Obama unveiled last month — which relies on a suite of executive actions that industry, Republicans and coal-state Democrats say will slow the economy — will draw fire from voters across the country.
“We know that there’s going to be town halls that congressmen go back to their districts to hear from their constituents. We want to make sure that energy is on the plate,” he said.
The effort will attempt to blunt any possible momentum for a carbon tax, Cole said.
Of that, there appears to be little.
Taxing carbon emissions has support from some environmentalists, as well as a collection of conservative economists and advocates who say it should be coupled with lower personal tax rates. But the idea has little political traction.
Carbon tax proposals are a non-starter in the GOP-controlled House. And Republicans combined a bloc of centrist Democrats threaten to thwart a carbon tax in the Senate. On top of all that, the White House has said it won’t pursue a carbon tax.
The concept has fueled intense opposition from the right.
The IER and AEA campaign has the support of several conservative outfits, including Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The first piece of the rollout is an IER-commissioned poll of 800 registered voters conducted last week by The Tarrance Group that says Americans reject the idea of a carbon tax.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they oppose a carbon tax “paid by businesses of all sizes,” compared with 35 percent of those who favored the concept.
The poll doesn't take into account different schemes for a carbon tax — for example, there’s variability in policy circles when deciding whether to apply a fee at the point of carbon emissions or fossil fuel extraction.
Still, the responses differed greatly among parties. A majority of Democrats — 54 percent — favored a carbon tax, while 80 percent of Republicans rejected it.
The results of that poll will be discussed at a carbon tax event IER is hosting Wednesday. Then comes the radio ad launch.
IER will also give lawmakers a point-by-point critique of the climate change plan Obama unveiled last month before they head home.
“It’s teeing up August recess interaction with constituents,” Cole said.
Cole said that IER and AEA plan to keep the heat on lawmakers until the heads of the congressional tax-writing panels, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), formally declare a carbon tax is off the table.
The two committee heads have demonstrated a desire to overhaul the federal tax code — and for both, time is of the essence. Baucus isn’t running for reelection in 2014, and Camp’s term as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is up after next year.
“There’s nothing that motivates a politician more than building his own legacy,” Cole said.
This post was updated at 5:34 a.m.