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'Big Oil Blanche' Lincoln Beats Back Challenge From Environmental Groups

5 years ago
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Washington Conventional Wisdom took a big hit along with Big Labor and environmental groups when Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln rebounded with a convincing 52 to 48 percent runoff win over her challenger for the honor of defending her seat in November. Lincoln looks like a giant killer, at least for now, but she'll go into the fall election against GOP Rep. John Boozman as the underdog, and without the support of the progressive groups that fought so hard to unseat her.
A flood of money and negative advertising from unions and environmentalists, much of it in the last two weeks, failed to dislodge Lincoln in her bid for a third term. The money to defeat "Big Oil Blanche," the moniker bestowed on her by environmentalists, arrived just as the BP oil spill dominated the news and the evils of Big Oil escalated in the minds of the voters. The environmental community imagined that Lincoln would be the first in a series of lawmakers felled by close ties to the oil industry.
With a little digging, environmental groups found that Lincoln received more money from Big Oil than any of her colleagues -- $286,400 for 2009-2010, over $40,000 more than the next highest recipient, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, and he represents ground zero of the drill, baby, drill crowd. At a briefing Tuesday, which was Election Day, to unveil a poll on changing attitudes toward energy reform in the wake of the spill, a reporter asked Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, why Lincoln was such a favorite of the oil companies. Could there be vast undiscovered reserves of oil in Arkansas? His answer: "She's been voting their way." A sure vote from a senator without a direct interest in oil is a prized commodity for an industry under siege.
Another reporter asked if it would be fair to characterize Lincoln as the first political victim of Big Oil should she lose, Karpinski chose his words carefully. "She's gotten more money than any other member of Congress, and that's something the voters learned about in the last several weeks." Thanks to the $2.3 million funneled into the state from outside groups wanting to defeat Lincoln, $800,000 in the last two weeks, the saliency of her support for Big Oil gained traction with the voters. But so did the notion that these were outsiders trying to manipulate Arkansans into doing their bidding, and that Lincoln's challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, was merely the pawn of these liberal groups.
That was the narrative advanced by President Clinton when he came to the state to campaign with Lincoln, and it took hold. A victorious Lincoln wore the opposition from Big Labor and environmentalists as a badge of honor, proof that she is a centrist and committed to the people in Arkansas, and not the interest groups in Washington. She indicated that her heart aches over what is happening in the Gulf, and that she wanted to go to the Gulf and help clean birds with dishwashing liquid. Procter & Gamble has been rushing bottles of Dawn to the Gulf since early in the crisis.
Back In Washington, Lincoln is supporting a resolution introduced by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, that rejects the authority of the EPA to regulate carbon pollution. The Senate is set to vote on Thursday. The Obama administration strongly opposes passage, saying it undermines the Clean Air Act and would increase the nation's dependence on fossil fuel. Murkowski has 40 co-sponsors, mostly Republicans, with only Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and the two Maine senators among the Republicans not yet declaring how they will vote. Lincoln's support for the resolution underscores her reputation as "Big Oil Blanche."
Even if Lincoln had run unchallenged, she still would have had the enmity of environmentalists. The League of Conservation Voters put her on their Dirty Dozen list back in January before Halter got in the race. He looked like a long shot, but when he forced Lincoln into a runoff, interest in the race spiked. The BP oil spill in the Gulf should be a constant reminder of the consequences of lax regulation and the hold that lobbyists have on lawmakers. But primary voters had other priorities as well, and Lincoln's newfound populism against Wall Street and the strong legislation she crafted to regulate derivatives took precedence, along with a fierce loyalty to all things Arkansan, from her accent to favorite son Bill Clinton.

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Sen. Lincoln is just one side of party politics. She was elected without serious thought about the November elections. It was a mistake for the Democratic Party to support Lincoln. Boozeman is my choice in November. I would vote for anyone other than Lincoln. She is a nice woman but is a mill stone around the necks of Arkansas voters. In my opinion there will be a landslide for Boozeman as most of those who voted against Lincoln will now vote for Boozman as being the only way to keep Lincoln from going back to Congress. Don't believe it? Take a poll of those who voted against Lincoln.

June 11 2010 at 5:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

One can assume, given Blanche's populist anti-Wall Street derivatives legislation, that she receives no campaign funding from that sector of the economy. Had Wall Street, rather than oil, contributed big bucks to her campaign would she have opposed
derivatives legislation? It seems counter intuitive that Arkansans believed Lincoln's opponent, Lt Governor Halter, was a pawn of environmentalists and other progressive groups but Lincoln was not a pawn of big oil. Populist politics once again trounce public priorities.

June 11 2010 at 5:05 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

big oil blanche is like our texas bigoil policitians all they care about is there pocket books she acted like our unions were the bad guys when she,s in bed , with bp ,walmarts, and big corporations, why wou;d arkansas voters vote against there own interests universal coverage for poor people arkansasis one of the lowest paying states in the coluntry , why would slick wilie want big oil blanche lincoln as senator fromark. hemust have gotten some big bucks to to sell out unions the white house hasd alot of explaining top do to us sobs who voted for them dont think obama will repeat in 2012 , let sarah palin start another war with iran , doesnt matter what we say they always cut us a new a@@hole

June 11 2010 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just 1 more reason we need a 3rd party candidate

June 11 2010 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Congratulations Ms Lincoln from a conservative and resident of the real Land of Lincoln! By November, more information will be disclosed about 'who got what from whom' making good choices even clearer. By the way - Palin Rocks!

June 10 2010 at 3:45 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Poor Blanch all that excitment to lose in November. I guess she will be able to say she came in Second.

June 10 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Mosher Family

So lets rip on Lincoln for taking BP money but it is OK for Obama to take 900K from BP. Looks to me by the way he has handled the oil spill that HE is the one in bed with Big Oil.

June 10 2010 at 12:24 PM Report abuse +17 rate up rate down Reply

I don't think Lincoln will prevail in November. I am glad that she beat back the unions, though, but it might have something to do with closing the polling places in the Halter strongholds. Unions must be reined in. They demand more and more and many find their faces turning red as they make their demands. Now, the POTUS wants the taxpayers to pony up and bail out some of their pension funds, funds they used to elect Obama. This is totally out of whack. Why would my money be taken from me to pay back the supporters of someone I never voted for. With a nod from the administration, some unions, SEIU comes to mind, have taken to the streets and conduct mob activities to intimidate citizens. Good for you Blanche, and good for the people of Arkansas, for making a statement. Wait until Obama gets his "Organizing for America" troops pumped up. You will not recognize your communties.

June 10 2010 at 9:25 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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