Politico reported earlier this week that Matthew Hite, senior counsel to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on the Environment and Public Works Committee, is leaving for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he will be policy counsel for the environment and agriculture committee in the Chamber’s environment, technology and regulatory affairs division.
Senator Inhofe, you’ll recall, is the author of the book, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” and has made a name for himself mocking the science of climate change. Here’s a typical Inhofe statement:
“It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
There must be people out there who deny the science of gravity, but they don’t matter much. But when powerful people like Senator Inhofe, or powerful interests like the Chamber of Commerce, deny or dispute the science of climate change — or, more importantly, act to block policies urgently needed to prevent catastrophic threats to the planet — it’s another matter altogether.
To be clear, the Chamber isn’t Inhofe. It doesn’t deny that climate change is occurring or suggest that it is desirable. Presumably, Matthew Hite won’t be advancing these positions at the Chamber, either. What the Chamber is doing, however, is helping lead the charge against meaningful policies to control greenhouse gas pollution and avert catastrophic climate change.
It’s also worth remarking on the revolving door issue. It’s taken as an article of faith in Washington, D.C., that this is just how things work: You leave government service and go to work for the corporate interests over whom you previously exercised oversight. But while it may be the norm, it’s not right. Jack Abramoff suggests that the revolving door is perhaps the chief corrupting influence in Congress.
So, it’s all business as usual perhaps, but dangerous business indeed.
Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen.