The wealthy donors who squandered tens of millions of dollars on Mitt Romney's campaign for president weren't the only ones who took a financial bath on Election Day. The major polluters and the special interest groups that advocate for them, often with false and misleading television ads, lost big as well. Across the country, voters cast ballots for their environment and its protection, and Washington had best take heed.
According to an analysis by the National Wildlife Federation, polluting industries and their backers -- among them Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS SuperPAC, Restore Our Future, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity -- spent a record $270 million on television ads in the presidential and congressional races in the last two months of the campaign. Roughly $112 million of this was spent in battleground states Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado, whose electoral votes went to President Obama.
In Montana, a traditional red state, voters re-elected Senator John Tester, a Democrat who has backed EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and voted against drilling for oil in the Arctic. His Republican opponent, Denny Rehberg, who claimed that Mr. Tester was the candidate of "radical environmentalists" and supported "Obama's regulations," was the recipient of nearly $1.5 million in funds from anti-environment organizations, but he could not persuade voters in the Big Sky state that protection of the sky, land and water are unimportant.
We've come a long way from Sarah Palin's "drill, baby, drill" campaign of four years ago. Americans want regulations that protect the nation from the pollution that causes health problems and contributes to the global warming fueling devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy. The president should respond to voters by proposing a carbon tax that will penalize polluters for their practices and encourage development of green energy.
While we're fortunate to be in Massachusetts, which is exploring clean energy sources like wind and solar, we are at the mercy of the prevailing winds from polluting states to the west of us. It is in our interests that Washington get tougher on polluting industries, and voters have given Washington the go-ahead to do so.