S9: Herb

S9: Herb

In more than two dozen climate cases across the U.S., lawyers are making one argument on behalf of fossil fuel companies: that anything they’ve ever said about climate change was said in the interest of shaping policy and is thus protected political speech, even if it was also misleading.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the fossil fuel industry has been building the foundation for that argument for decades, not only through various PR campaigns but also by involving itself in various court cases that laid the legal groundwork for this expansion of corporate free speech protections.

In Herb, a 3-part miniseries, the Drilled team brings to light the history of the Mobil Oil VP who got the oil guys into the corporate free speech business back in the 1970s, Mobil's (and then ExxonMobil's) role in setting the legal foundation for the expansion of corporate free speech in Supreme Court cases from Bellotti to Citizens United, and how that work set the industry up for the argument it's making in climate cases today.

Legal analysts familiar with these cases have begun echoing what Drilled’s host and lead journalist Amy Westervelt has said all along: the next Citizens United will be a climate case. Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts!

FACT-CHECKING: Looking for primary documents and background research for this season? Check out our Document Cloud for more.

Please enjoy this 1975 educational video from Herb Schmertz warning other members of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) that their corporate free speech rights are under attack by the broadcast media:


Ep 1: The Panic

In the 1970s, Mobil Oil had invented the advertorial and was aggressively pursuing an entirely new type of marketing, branding the company as a person with a unique personality and opinions that deserved to be heard. When public backlash threatened to undermine their approach, they launched a campaign that would change the course of U.S. history. Transcript

Worried that all their work creating Mobil's personality and a multi-pronged issue advertising campaign to go with it would go to waste if the TV networks deemed it all "propaganda" Herb and his boss looked to the courts for protection. In this episode we follow the "corporate free speech" movement through the courts, where it got a big assist from tobacco lobbyist-turned-Supreme Court justice Lewis F. Powell. Transcript

Ep 3: The Next Citizens United Will Be a Climate Case

In more than 30 climate cases making their way through U.S. courts today, oil companies are using an argument they've been laying the legal groundwork for since the 1970s: that since everything they've ever said about climate change was in the interest of shaping policy or blocking regulation, it's protected speech, even if it was misleading. In this episode we take a look at how those cases are playing out and the likelihood that this new take on "corporate free speech" could make it all the way to the Supreme Court.