Thursday, February 21, 2008

If Exxon can lie, then so can I

Not much climate blogging out there on this issue: Exxon-Mobil did a significant blogger outreach over a year ago, promising to stop lying about climate change by funding climate denialists. I had some doubts about it. Turns out I wasn't doubtful enough. Environmental Law Prof Susan Smith has the goods (and she's not happy at being taken in herself). Exxon gave $180,000 to Frontiers of Freedom, a denialist astroturf group in 2006, when they said they stopped doing that. Smith lays out the denialist nonsense that FoF comes up with.

To be generous to Exxon, maybe they decided to stop lying through funding in the middle of 2006 after giving away the money, and were just inexact in their January 2007 discussion. We'll see what they disclose for 2007 donations, then.

Enough with Exxon's lies, what about mine? I said I'd stop writing about Hillary Clinton's $5m loan. Ha! Via emailer Jeff, Matt Yglesias and Ben Smith are still on the issue. Smith found out that Clinton's charging 1.26% interest on her loan, apparently unheard of even in the murky world of candidates loaning money to their campaigns (UPDATE: turns out it's not unheard of, Kerry charged a far higher rate to his own campaign in 2004). I posted this comment at Yglesias' site:

What's interesting to me though is that [the interest] may set up HRC to treat non-payment of the loan, should she decide to forget about getting repaid, as a capital loss to set off against her other capital gains.

In other words, if she just gave $5m to her campaign, she's $5m poorer. But instead, if she loans the money following IRS regs for arms-length below-interest loans, and decides later to not get paid, she writes off $5m against any capital gains she and Bill make in the tax year. Bill's cashing out of a partnership, so he'll have a lot of capital gains. Not a bad way to get $1m-plus tax benefit off her donation. The rest of us get no tax writeoffs from political donations.

I'm just speculating though. A tax specialist/accountant should really look into this.


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