Senator Kerry’s Secretary of State hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will take place on Thursday, January 24. Kerry should receive some tough questions regarding his green energy investments and his ability to profit, as Secretary of State, from his support of a climate change agenda.
The STOCK Act
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the STOCK Act. Kerry and many fellow Senate Members were co-sponsors of the bill. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act—known as the STOCK Act—prohibits members and employees of Congress from using “any nonpublic information derived from the individual's position… or gained from performance of the individual's duties, for personal benefit.” The bill also applies to all employees in the Executive and Judicial branches of the federal government.
The STOCK Act passed quickly and with wide bipartisan support.
Kerry has been an ardent believer in Climate Change as a man-made crisis. In August of 2009, he penned an op-ed that compared the threat of climate change to the 9-11 attacks. In it Kerry wrote: “Make no mistake: catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and—yes—even to American national security. … Unfortunately, not everyone in Washington appreciates the stakes. It's tragic that we live at a time when if one were to dismiss the threat of terrorism, you'd be sent home in the next election. But there are no similar political consequences if you dismiss the science or the threat of climate change.”
On September 30, 2009, Kerry and Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the Senate version of a cap-and-trade bill: the 821-page Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act—also known as the Kerry-Boxer Bill. At the time, he said, about the bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions and therefore slowing global warming: “Ultimately, this bill is about keeping Americans safe.”
The Sierra Club, long the standard bearer for the environmental community, responded to the Kerry-Boxer bill this way: “Millions of jobs could be created here if only the U.S. were to invest wisely in clean energy, innovation and efficiency. This bill can build our clean energy economy—and not let polluters get away with their dirty business-as-usual ways. Global warming is a very real threat to our national security. As catastrophic weather events increase over time, our world will see more climate refugees—masses of people forced to move, causing clashes over borders and dwindling resources like food, fuel and water. A strong clean energy bill is essential to protecting our security.”
The Kerry-Boxer Bill didn’t pass. But that hasn’t slowed Kerry’s crusade against global warming.
In 2011, in response to the President’s glaring omission of any climate change priorities in his State of the Union Address, Kerry gave him a pass when he said: “That’s alright. There’s a lot of work that has to be done to revalidate the science and the facts with respect to that. It would cloud the reality that we’re trying to deal with respect to energy. So I’m very sympathetic. I understand that completely. That is not where the country is. That’s not where the issue is right now. It has to be brought back there. And it will be, but that’s a different track on a different issue.”
It now appears that Kerry sees the Secretary of State position as the “track” to bring it back. The Los Angeles Times reports that as Secretary of State, Kerry will “push the issue to center stage as a slow-motion crisis in need of a global solution.”
Climate hawks are practically giddy over Kerry’s nomination. For example, writing for the National Journal, Coral Davenport says that as Secretary of State he will “likely raise climate change to a top-tier priority.” In Mother Jones Magazine, Washington Bureau reporter Kate Sheppard wrote: “Having Kerry at the helm at State would be very good news.” In Climate Progress, Joe Romm says he believes Kerry’s nomination is “the first serious indication Obama will focus on climate change in his second term.” And, in Grist.org, Lisa Hymas refers to Kerry as “the most ardent climate hawk ever to hold the office.”
The enthusiasm of the green groups is apropos. Kerry would be “the most ardent climate hawk ever to hold the office.” Along with his wife Teresa, Kerry wrote the book This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future.
The 2009 Stimulus Bill
Next, Kerry played a part in crafting President Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Bill—more specifically, as his website touts, he worked on the portions that offered federal support for green energy projects: he “played a key role in securing energy tax provision increases to include a long term extension of provisions that provide tax incentives for the production of renewable energy and tax credits for conservations.”
It is surprising that Kerry brags about his involvement in the Stimulus Bill, given American’s attitude toward it. His “efforts” have cost America’s taxpayers billions on foolhardy projects that lined the pockets of Democratic lawmakers and wealthy donors before going bankrupt.
“Big-ticket Obama donor,” John Doerr also was part of shaping what went into the 2009 Stimulus Bill. Doerr is a partner at investment firm Kliener Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). Doerr jumped on the Climate Change bandwagon in 2005 and credits Al Gore for his “environmental awakening”—though his conversion may have been more financial than spiritual as he saw green-energy as the “mother of all markets” and “the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.” In 2006, Doerr started his first green-tech investment fund.
KPCB has two investment portfolios that specifically fund green energy projects—both launched in 2008: the Green Growth Fund to invest $500 million in growth-stage companies, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers XIII, a $700 million fund to invest in greentech, information technology, and life sciences ventures.
Though the KPCB funds may seem irrelevant to Kerry’s expected confirmation, they play an important role.
More than fifty percent of the companies within these funds have benefitted from loans, grants, and special tax breaks through the 2009 Stimulus Bill, in which both Kerry and Doerr participated.
Kerry is the wealthiest member of the Senate. He has vast wealth, myriad investments, and an impressive record that considerably beats the average. Obviously, he knows how to spot a good investment opportunity. Yet, he did not invest in either of the KPCB funds at their inception. Kerry waited almost a year later, until after the stimulus bill was passed—which directed billions of taxpayer dollars to KPCB funded projects. According to his investment records, he invested in both of Doerr’s greentech funds—Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers XIII and the KPCB Green Growth Fund—on March 31, 2009. He’s invested in the funds many times each year in the subsequent years.
Despite a green-energy push from the White House, these funds haven’t “delivered the returns expected on the timeline expected for most venture capitalists.” In fact, Doerr admitted in a November 2009 speech that the government funding saved them: “If we’d been able to foresee the crash of the market, we wouldn’t probably have launched a green initiative, because these ventures really need capital. The only way in which we were lucky, I think, is that the government stepped in, particularly the Department of Energy. Led by this great administration that put in place these loan guarantees.”
Most of us have heard the adage: “put your money where your mouth is.” It is great to see a person investing in issues in which he or she is a strong believer—as Kerry’s investment history shows. However, this has always been immoral for members of Congress and, thanks to the STOCK Act, it is now illegal.
We have every reason to believe that, as Secretary of State, Kerry will push forward a clean energy agenda, one that moves climate change to center stage; a top-tier priority—and this will financially benefit his investments and those of his family and friends. With the Kyoto Treaty dead and more and more countries abandoning their CO2 targets, these greentech funds seem doomed without another form of government intervention and that could come in the from of Kerry’s manipulation of climate change into a national security issue.
Following the passage of the fiscal cliff deal, green energy stocks rallied—not because of market demand (in fact, in spite of it), but because the deal promised continued government funding. In much the same way, if global warming falls off the radar—as it is currently doing due to a lack of actual warming and the global economic crisis—these greentech investments will die without a government savior such as the Senator.
Wouldn’t it be great, if Ranking Member Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), or perhaps Committee Member Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), would question Kerry on his green energy investments? The closing question could be: “If you are confirmed as the Secretary of State, Senator Kerry, can you assure me, and the American people whose tax dollars have already been transferred to you through your investments, that you will not make climate change a national security issue as your record, to date, indicates you will?”
Pay attention. Maybe he’ll really have to answer a similar line of questioning on Thursday.
Author’s note: Thanks to Christine Lakatos for her extensive research on the green-energy crony-corruption scandal and specifically KCPB’s greentech investments.