Sunday, November 2, 2014

Congressman Lance's Honor Role of Campaign Donors

The proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline through Hunterdon County, New Jersey continues to be a hot button issue, including in regards to the upcoming election. Andrea Bonette’s Hunterdon County Democrat letter of 10/13/14 letter, Lance’s Dark Money Donors, is a case in point.

Bonette announces her opposition to the PennEast pipeline in the first paragraph:

We cannot find any benefits to the communities it would trash on its way through, carrying gas that they cannot access and which very likely is headed for China.

Leonard Lance is the incumbent Republican congressman from NJ’s 7th district, through which the pipeline will pass. Bonette says that Lance “would support “a new plan that protects property rights and preserves public and private lands [but has not] suggested stopping the whole project.” She follows that up with a list of donors from fossil fuel companies and groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, Williams cos., and Velaro. She then cites so-called “dark money”—anonymous campaign spending—in observing:

There is no way to know how much of that anonymous funding has been donated to support Lance’s re-election, but we can safely assume that the above-mentioned corporations have contributed to preserve their interest in promoting nonrenewable energy.

Bonette concludes by urging a vote for Janice Kovach, Lance’s Democrat challenger, who opposes the pipeline.

I left these comments:

Well, you convinced me to vote for Leonard Lance. That honor roll of donors representing the great companies that supply our vital energy tells me that Lance is on the right side of the energy issue.

It’s irrelevant  whether or not the gas transported through the pipeline is available to local community members. If “community benefit” rather than individual rights were the standard, then none of us would have fuel, because the fuel we use today gets to us by passing through other communities around the state and around the nation through the hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines currently in use, not to mention what passes through other communities via rail or tanker truck. It’s simply hypocritical to stand in the way of producers based on “community benefit.”

Furthermore, it is un-American. America is based on the sanctity and dignity of the individual, not the mob. The “community” is made up of sovereign individuals, and no individual or group of individuals has moral standing to claim to represent all community members. Individual rights, not the whims of community mobs, is the proper standard for evaluating this and similar projects.

What’s relevant is that property rights are protected, meaning that the pipeline company must get only voluntary permission from property owners to cross their land—i.e., no eminent domain. Every assurance should be made that the most advanced state-of-the-art technologies be used so as to maximize safety and minimize pollution to the extent technologically possible. As the writer herself acknowledges, Lance has pledged to “protect property rights and preserve public and private lands.” So what’s the beef?

Opponents of the pipeline rarely advance any valid reason for opposing the pipeline. They are climate change dogmatists whose religious-like zealotry for their “renewable energy” fantasy drives them to hamper the industrial progress that our lives depend upon by stifling the reliable, affordable, clean energy provided by fossil fuels—in this case, natural gas produced by the wonderful technology called “fracking.”

As to that “dark money”: It’s irrelevant where the donations came from. “Dark money” is a term concocted by and for the dark political ideology of statism. But individuals and associations of individuals have a right to spend anonymously on issue and campaign advocacy, and the government should protect, not violate, that right. What matters is what is said, not who said it. People who are more concerned about who than what are either incapable or afraid to offer counter-arguments, or are ad hominem types who intend to use the identities of the donors to poison the public debate through personal demonization or smear tactics. Is it any wonder that some donors prefer anonymity?

Related Reading:

Principles of a Free Society—Ayn Rand Institute

Collectivized “Rights”—Ayn Rand

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