“How could a guy like Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has supported the environment in the past, go off and vote to gut the Clean Air Act?” It’s a question that we’ve been getting a lot lately on Facebook and over email.

Yesterday, we launched a creative campaign to allow people in Ohio and across the country to crowd-finance ads targeting Sherrod Brown’s recent vote to weaken the Clean Air Act and the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate big polluters. The ads (check out the picture in this post) make the connection between Sen. Brown’s vote and the almost $3.5 million that big polluters are spending across Ohio to scare politicians into submission.

If we can raise $7,000 in the next couple of days, the ads will be displayed on billboards that will be pulled by bicycles around the streets of Cleveland next week. It’s creative political action, sustainably powered!

Earlier this week, we kicked off this new effort to hold politicians accountable with a push in Massachusetts to fund ads targeting Sen. Scott Brown who also voted to gut the clean air act. Sen. Brown, who rode into office with the backing of the Tea Party, some of the loudest opponents of climate action, has a short, but consistent record of opposing climate action, so it was no surprise to most people that Sen. Brown voted to gut the Clean Air Act. In fact, 350.org activists in Massachusetts were so eager to get the ads placed in the Boston subway that they raised over $10,000 in 48 hours.

But for a lot of voters in Ohio, it has come as a bit of a shock that Sen. Sherrod Brown is in league with big polluters like Exxon Mobile, Peabody Coal, the US Chamber of Commerce, and others who tried to destroy the Clean Air Act. As a friend of mine from Ohio said, “I feel a little bit nervous funding an ad going after Sherrod. I mean, he’s a good guy right?”

Well, to answer that question, I guess you have to follow the money.

According to DirtyEnergyMoney.org, Sen. Brown has received over $100,000 from polluting industries since 1999. The real amount of money that may be influencing his decision to side with big polluters, however, is the amount of cash that the fossil fuel industry and their allies spent across Ohio during the recent 2010 election. According to Opensecrets.org, a coalition of corporate funded groups, like Americans For Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, all of which oppose climate action, spent over $3.5 million to influence the Ohio elections. While the money didn’t go directly to Sen. Brown, you can be sure that it was designed to send him a clear message: it’s time to stop representing the interests of your constituents and start representing the interests of our corporations.

That money clearly made a difference. Since 2010, Sen. Brown has begun to step away from his commitment to protect the environment and public health. This winter, Brown sent a letter to President Obama laying out his opposition to allowing the EPA to implement the Clean Air Act and regulate polluting industries that were a danger to public health, the environment, and our climate. As the Columbus Dispatch wrote in an February article, “With the letter, Brown made clear he is siding with Ohio industries that fear tough global-warming regulations will severely damage manufacturing and farming in the state.”  

And when it came time to vote on defending the Clean Air Act, Brown was one of the few Democratic Senators who sided with Big Polluters.

To answer my friend’s question, Sen. Brown may be a good guy, but his vote to gut the Clean Air Act was a big mistake, and if we don’t hold him accountable then he’ll get exactly the message big polluters want him to receive: don’t worry about selling out the environment or public health because no one is going to stand up and defend them, especially when we’re dumping millions into your state to squash any opposition.

Those of you that have been working with 350.org for a while know that we started off organizing big global days of action. But as we built a larger and larger network around the world, we heard from supporters around the world that until Americans could push the US government to take stronger action on climate change, the world would be unlikely to tackle the crisis in a unified way. So now, with thousands of you across the country, we’re taking our combination of creative online and offline tactics and putting it to work to try and make a political impact.

That starts with holding politicians like Sen. Brown accountable for their mistakes. After all, as the saying goes, friends don’t let friends pollute.

We hope you’ll join us by donating to this week’s crowd-financed ads. (If the experiment goes well, we’ll be expanding it around the country!)

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