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It looks as if our tip line is working overtime these days.  The latest tip comes in the form of a rant.  Our favorite part, the “Global Warming” musical.

A Congressional Sketch

Is it getting hot in here? (Yes)

Outside, the first snow of winter dusted Washington streets and a 10-degree low was coming, but inside the big congressional hearing room the climate was decidedly warmer as the U.S. Climate Action Partnership brought its traveling press conference to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Thursday’s worst kept secret in town was the USCAP cap-&-trade proposal, which had found its way to The Washington Post the day before — standard PR for Washington — but not to the committee until 7:30 that morning and “embargoed until 9 a.m.” at that.  But what the hey? Patent medicine never turned sour just because the bottle was uncorked early.

9 a.m. was a convenient moment for the embargo to evaporate because that’s when USCAP had scheduled its first news conference of the day. Then it picked up and hauled itself down Independence Avenue for the next press availability…uh, hearing.

In fact, what unfolded in Room 2123 of the Rayburn Building was a true hearing, complete with witnesses called to testify. Except it wasn’t the sort of hearing that happens by the hundreds around the Capitol on most workdays.

This time the majority Democrats’ message to the minority Republicans was pointedly less democratic than Democratic, i.e., sorry, you don’t get to call any witnesses unless they can answer questions about a document that nobody will give them; so we’ll all just make do with the mega-enviros and corporate honchos supplied by USCAP’s lobbying operatives from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when it’s time for their planes to start flying them away to far places.

The usual opening statements by committee members launched at 9:15 a.m., but USCAP was in town to talk, not listen, so while the Congress spoke, the 14 witnesses were engaged with the press elsewhere. Their absence didn’t dissuade junior committee Democrats from telling 14 empty chairs what fine work USCAP had been accomplishing.

There was much looking forward.

“I look forward to being back when our witnesses will testify,” U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., told the furniture, because “USCAP will help us create legislation.”

“I look forward to hearing from each of today’s witnesses,” added U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.

“I look forward to the testimony today, and applaud the members of USCAP,” U.S. Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio, said.

U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, seemed more rooted in the present, pointing out to the chairs that it “is critically important to have these folks here today.”

Returning to the theme, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., concurred that “I look forward to hearing these witnesses from USCAP” and “we really don’t have any time to wait, and humans are capable of delaying on all fronts.”

The humans showed up to populate the witness table 20 minutes later.

USCAP’s amalgamation of political activism and corporate lobbying wasn’t always the darling of happy liberals. Last summer, National Public Radio took a look and seemed less impressed. A Morning Edition piece reported that…

“In this debate of economic theory versus business bottom-line, one big advocate of cap-and-trade is USCAP, the alliance of 21 corporations plus some environmental groups. Economist Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the business school at Clemson University in South Carolina, calls it a union of ‘bootleggers and Baptists.’ Yandle refined the ‘bootleggers and Baptists’ theory of government regulation years ago. He named it in honor of those most dedicated to closing small-town liquor stores on Sundays.

“‘The bootleggers love it because it gives them a market one day of the week, and the Baptists like it because of a fervent belief that a diminution in the consumption of alcohol would be a good thing.’ Nowadays, the environmental groups are Yandle’s ‘Baptists,’ and the corporations are his ‘bootleggers.’ And if cutting America’s thirst for fossil fuels is a good thing, the corporate ‘bootleggers’ want to help set the agenda.” — Morning Edition, June 13, 2007

At hearing’s end, bootleggers and the prohibitionists headed for their cars and airplanes, but some of the issues they left on the table remained murky. No one mentioned how much cash coalition-member American International Group (AIG) had contributed to the lobbying effort, and how much of that might be coming from the insurance giant’s $85 billion government bailout.  Perhaps because the delicate sensibilities involved in using its bailout billions to lobby Congress on global warming, AIG hadn’t turned up at either Part 1 or Part 2 of the movable news conference.

As the big room emptied of witnesses, questioners, cameras and reporters, in a corner a staffer with a notepad sat and hummed an old show tune and wrote down some words:

Global Warming, the Musical

Well, look what’s comin’ down the river now.
Big stern-wheeler on the water, wow!
Big steam whistle gonna blow, man, blow.
Heat wave’s a-comin’. Let the people know!

Movin’ loud and fast,
emittin’ just a tiny bit a
green-house gas.

Strutin’ for the crews
shootin’ big stories
for the evenin’ news.