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Sierra Club pushes wind industry tax credit

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The Sierra Club’s nonprofit has released three new ads yesterday targeting Republican congressmen who have opposed renewing a tax credit for the wind energy industry.

The Sierra Club so far has taken aim at six Republicans in its pro-wind campaign: Reps. Bob Latta of Ohio, Blake Farenthold of Texas, Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, Frank Guinta of New Hampshire and Joe Heck of Nevada.

The TV and radio ads are all variations of the same template, calling on the congressmen to “save wind industry jobs” by voting to renew the wind production tax credit. The production tax credit gives owners of renewable energy projects an income tax reduction based on how much electrical output their projects create.

The American Wind Energy Association estimates there are currently 75,000 jobs in the wind industry, 37,000 of which would be at risk if the tax credit expires.

Its renewal has become a hot issue in some states, especially Iowa, thanks to the high number of wind industry jobs in the state. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has come out against renewing the production tax credit whereas President Barack Obama has said he supports it.

The value of wind energy has been subjected to attacks this year by conservative groups including Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of state representatives and corporations that has drafted model bills to overturn state laws supporting wind energy.

Both groups are partially funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

In a confidential memo obtained by The Guardian, a proposal from the ultra-conservative American Tradition Institute, which also has ties to the Koch brothers, proposed a national public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the wind industry’s message.

The group publicly disavowed the proposed campaign, which, according the memo, would include a counterintelligence branch and front businesses to buy ads.

It is unclear how much the Sierra Club has spent on its “Wind Works” ad campaign, which began July 12. Because the ads do not say to “vote for” or “vote against” the congressmen mentioned, they are considered “issue ads” and therefore not reportable to the Federal Election Commission.

The Sierra Club’s super PAC, Sierra Club Independent Action, had $16,000 on hand through the end of June, its most recent FEC report shows. All of its donations in 2012 have come in small amounts, almost all between $250 and $1,500.

The super PAC has also reported spending in favor of Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who is facing former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican, in the U.S. Senate election in New Mexico.

The race has attracted more than $2.3 million in outside spending, with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters battling conservative behemoths American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which support Wilson.

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Hawaii, has also benefitted from Sierra Club Independent Action’s spending. The group has spent $58,000 on direct mail and staff support in favor of the former Hawaii state representative.

In other outside spending news:

Correction (July 31, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.): The Sierra Club’s 501(c)(4) organization paid for the wind industry ads, not Sierra Club Independent Action, the super PAC. This article has been updated to reflect this.


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