With a cleverly buried lead, the Times reports that Al Gore is on track to becoming a "carbon billionaire" by putting his money where his mouth has been; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing the same game, but the Times buries that. Here is the long distraction:
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Al Gore thought he had spotted a winner last year when a small California firm sought financing for an energy-saving technology from the venture capital firm where Mr. Gore is a partner.
The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. It came to Mr. Gore’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital providers, looking for $75 million to expand its partnerships with utilities seeking to install millions of so-called smart meters in homes and businesses.
Mr. Gore and his partners decided to back the company, and in gratitude Silver Spring retained him and John Doerr, another Kleiner Perkins partner, as unpaid corporate advisers.
The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts. Kleiner Perkins and its partners, including Mr. Gore, could recoup their investment many times over in coming years.
Silver Spring Networks is a foot soldier in the global green energy revolution Mr. Gore hopes to lead. Few people have been as vocal about the urgency of global warming and the need to reinvent the way the world produces and consumes energy. And few have put as much money behind their advocacy as Mr. Gore and are as well positioned to profit from this green transformation, if and when it comes.
Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming skeptics, say Mr. Gore is poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire,” profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in.
Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, asserted at a hearing this year that Mr. Gore stood to benefit personally from the energy and climate policies he was urging Congress to adopt.
Mr. Gore says that he is simply putting his money where his mouth is.
“Do you think there is something wrong with being active in business in this country?” Mr. Gore said. “I am proud of it. I am proud of it.”
I am sure Dick Cheney was proud of the work done by Halliburton in supporting American interests in Iraq and around the world, too. And Michael Moore was a progressive rabble-rouser even before he became rich by being a progressive rabble-rouser. This is a great country.
Gore is not a public official, thank heaven, so it is perfectly reasonable for him to back his ideas with his money. What is not reasonable is the silence of the conflict of interest crowd that screams "cui bono" every time a righty does something like this.
By way of contrast, Nancy Pelosi has a problem, as the Times eventually notes:
Other public figures, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who have vocally supported government financing of energy-saving technologies, have investments in alternative energy ventures. Some scientists and policy advocates also promote energy policies that personally enrich them.
With Waxman-Markey floating around I can't imagine how she would justify that sort of conflict of interest; it is interesting that the Times is vexing their readers by noting it. I do love their pairing of Pelosi with Robert Kennedy Jr. and the idea that Pelosi is "vocally" supporting government financing of alternative energy. In my world, casting votes in the House as Speaker goes beyond "vocal" support.
MORE: The Times front-paged the Gore piece and tucked a wistful "if Only Obama Were President" story about disenchanted Iowa voters inside. Why do I think of rats and sinking ships?