Bill McKibben's Dec. 14 Op-Ed article decrying the influence of corporate money in Washington vis a vis the political battle over building the Keystone XL pipeline prompted several readers to say McKibben unfairly targeted those politicians who take the side of industry. One letter writer quipped that McKibben "writes an entire Op-Ed article about the corrupting influence of money in politics and never mentions the word 'union' once."
Reader Robert Helbing of Monrovia said big money influences all sides of a debate, including McKibben's own environmental activism:
"Bill McKibben complains that oil company donations affect the votes of Republicans in Washington. What about green energy donations affecting Obama's policies? A major Solyndra investor, George Kaiser, was also a big fundraiser for President Obama's campaign. It's been estimated that up to 80% of the companies receiving Department of Energy grants had investors who donated to Obama.
"What about McKibben's own group, 350.org? It accepts donations and uses them for political purposes. It organizes demonstrations, runs negative ads against politicians it dislikes and endorses policies and leaders that fit its agenda. Is he the same kind of slave to his donor base that he implies the Republicans are to theirs?
"The dilemma is this: Restricting money in politics can't be done without also restricting political speech. And freedom of speech (especially in the public sphere) is one of our most cherished rights."