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Anti-Elon Musk Campaign Has Big Ties to Big Energy

Elon Musk is being targeted by the conservative political action committee, Citizens for the Republic. The group's so-called Sunlight Project is behind an incendiary lobbying campaign and website called, "Stop Elon Musk from Failing Again," with a mission of divesting the Tesla/SpaceX/SolarCity boss from federal clean energy subsidies.

Musk himself has tweeted about the recent rash of attacks.

According to the Washington Examiner, the campaign was launched a few days before Tesla's recently approved merger with sister company SolarCity.

"The Musk empire appears to be nothing more than a collection of failing startups and plummeting stock options," Citizens for the Republic said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. "Even the once-touted SolarCity had to be bought out by Tesla" to survive.

"Following the victory of President-elect Donald Trump and a majority of Republicans in the House and Senate, government corruption and spending abuse at all levels must end," the group added in reference to Musk's subsidies.

The "Stop Elon" website is a giant hit piece on Musk's several companies and his endeavors. Its about page states:

"Elon Musk has defrauded the American Taxpayer out of over $4.9 Billion in the form of subsidies, grants, and other favors. We are challenging not just Elon, but the entire culture of corporations making billions of dollars off of the American people for almost zero return to the consumer. CEO's like Musk are taking advantage of Americans, and it is our intention to end their free ride."

The $4.9 billion figure stems from a debunked Los Angeles Times story. While Musk said that government subsidies are "helpful" they are also "not necessary" for his company to run. He pointed out that $4.9 billion is from "adding up everything that's ever happened and including things that will take the next 20 years."

Musk suggested that the Times report was planted after the International Monetary Fund's staggering report that the fossil fuel industry receives more than $5 trillion in subsidies a year. During a talk in May, the sustainable transport/clean energy advocate urged a revolt against Big Energy for allegedly feeding negative stories about his work to the press.

"We need to appeal to the people—educate people to sort of revolt against this and to fight the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry which is unrelenting and enormous," Musk said.

On its website, the misleadingly titled Sunlight Project considers the solar industry "Big Energy," calling it a pet project of "the Obama Administration and those who claim to care about the environment." It accuses Washington of funneling millions in tax credits to solar companies "despite posting losses year after year." (Actually, the solar industry has reported record-breaking growth in recent years).

Several new reports have determined that the anti-solar/anti-Musk campaign has dubious ties with conservative interests and Big Energy lobbyists.

Electrek writer Fred Lambert reported that Citizens for the Republic, which was first launched by Ronald Reagan in the 1970s and later dismantled, is now spearheaded by none other than conservative radio host and climate change denier Laura Ingraham. Ingraham, a top Donald Trump surrogate, happens to be in the running for press secretary under the Trump administration.

The Drive's Liane Yvkoff also reported that Citizens for the Republic's board members Craig Shirley and Diane Banister are partners of the right-wing public relations firm Shirley and Banister Public Affairs, that has represented the National Rifle Association, commentator Ann Coulter and the Tea Party Patriots. Posts on "Stop Elon Musk From Failing" are authored by someone called "stopelon," the same user name on Alt Left Watch, which also happens to be managed by the PR company.

Not only that, Yvkoff noted that Shirley has previously lobbied for Citizens for State Power that "actively fought deregulation of utilities—in the years 1999, 2000, and 2001." The Washington Post revealed that utility companies secretly funded millions to Citizens for State Power to lobby Congress for energy deregulation. Shirley served on the board of the United Seniors Association that lobbied on behalf of the Republican party for energy deregulation in 2000, according to Public Citizen.

According to Yvkoff, Citizens for State Power and Stop Elon Musk From Failing "probably isn't a personal project of Craig Shirley or Diane Banister, and is more likely to be supported by energy companies that want to end the tax credits that help Tesla and other renewable energy companies build infrastructure."

However, when Bloomberg asked Banister if oil companies are contributing to the campaign, she responded, "We reached out to them [for donations], but they haven't responded.'"

The Sunlight Project produced a video that delves into their overall mission and touts the tagline, "We believe sunlight is the best disinfectant."

The clip features Shirley as well as Heartland Institute-approved Greg E. Walcher, the president of the Natural Resources Group and the former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. In 2004, The League of Conservation Voters added Walcher to their "Dirty Dozen" list of anti-environmental candidates during his run for Congress in Colorado's 3rd District.

Walcher boasts on his resume that he "helped forge a compromise and approval that allowed new technology to access oil shale in the Piceance Basin, leading to the first practical oil shale production in 30 years."

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