This week, the Investigative Reporting Center at American University released a report connecting a little-known pledge signed by 143 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 25 senators to inaction on climate policy.
The pledge, published by Americans for Prosperity (the article links AFP to the Koch family), is ostensibly an oath to the taxpayers represented by the elected official. It is simple enough:
“I, ______________________, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of _______________ and to the American people that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”
One of the more prominent solutions to climate problems is that offered by Bob Inglis at the Energy and Enterprise Institute—a revenue neutral carbon tax. The AFP pledge seems to leave plenty of room to drive that idea home.
Let’s be honest. These pledges aren’t a pledge to a representative’s constituents any more than are empty campaign promises. They are oaths to special interest groups. Some of these groups, like AFP and Americans for Tax Reform, have the wherewithal to exact punitive measures upon any uncooperative legislator. Pledges aren’t the sole domain of conservative or libertarian groups—special interests across the political spectrum attempt to extract promises from politicians.
There is one mandatory oath lawmakers must take before assuming office. It is their Oath of Office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
That seems to cover all the bases, doesn’t it? Doesn’t signing special interest pledges limit the actual oath of office?
This Independence Day, politicians of every sort—city councilors, mayors, state and federal legislators—will make patriotic appearances, march in parades, and probably recite this pledge several times:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
If you get the chance this weekend, remind your elected officials that these two pledges serve us well. Any other pledge puts America and Americans, both those here today and those in future generations, secondary.
Happy Independence Day!