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The Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Stations in Byron, Illinois. Photo: Jeff Haynes/AFP via Getty Images

A bipartisan pair of former congressional leaders, backed by corporate money, are launching a seven-figure advocacy and lobbying group in support of a carbon tax.

Why it matters: It’s a pivotal step bolstering an initiative, first launched last year by conservative leaders from earlier GOP administrations, pushing a carbon tax in which its revenue is returned back to most Americans in the form of dividend checks. Tuesday’s announcement comes one year after four global oil companies announced support for the plan.

Reality check: Carbon taxes are politically toxic in Washington, and any such policy is unlikely to pass Congress any time soon, fueled by deep conservative opposition on Capitol Hill and among influential advocacy groups like Americans for Tax Reform.

The details:

  • Leading the effort are former Senators Trent Lott (R-Miss.) John Breaux (D-La.). Both men held leadership positions on Capitol Hill.
  • The group’s funders so far include Exelon Corporation, America’s largest nuclear power operator, First Solar, and the American Wind Energy Association, according to sources close to the effort.
  • Exelon has contributed $1 million, according to top company executive Kathleen Barron.
  • The group, called Americans for Carbon Dividends, is a nonprofit with a c(4) tax status, which means, among other things, that its donors can be anonymous. Other corporate donors exist, but are opting not to disclose, according to a person involved.
  • No oil and gas companies are funding the effort yet, but they’re likely to in the coming months, according to a source familiar with the effort.
  • BP, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total are among the founding corporate members of the related initiative, the Climate Leadership Council. But that group explicitly doesn’t accept corporate funding, according to one of its organizers.

Between the lines: The message Lott and others will be sending won’t have the word “tax” in it. The fact that the policy, which would also eliminate most federal regulations related to carbon emissions, sends money back to consumers is a critical part of its political and economic appeal.

What they're saying:

  • “I’m opposed to a carbon tax, but I support carbon dividend,” Lott told Axios in an interview Tuesday. “That’s what makes this worth considering.”
  • “It’s really important to us that this treats customers fairly and that’s a big feature of why we’re attracted to it,” Barron of Exelon said Tuesday.

One level deeper: Lott says the science of climate change, and the urgency surrounding the issue, won’t be a key part of his lobbying push.

What’s next: Lott says he has made calls to the White House and hopes to meet with former colleagues on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who holds a leadership position in the House GOP caucus and is also a leader opposing a carbon tax.

Lott says he’ll emphasize to the lawmaker how this is different from previous policies addressing climate change. “He’s an intellectual leader on this subject, so whether he’s for or against you, he’s going to be a factor,” Lott said.

Go deeper

Scoop: 50,000 migrants released; few report to ICE

A law enforcement officer walks to meet migrants crossed the Rio Grande River illegally last month. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

About 50,000 migrants who crossed the southern border illegally have now been released in the United States without a court date. Although they are told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office instead, just 13% have shown up so far, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The sizable numbers are a sign of just how overwhelmed some sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border continue to be: A single stretch covering the Rio Grande Valley had 20,000 apprehensions in a week. The figures also show the shortcomings of recent emergency decisions to release migrants.

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Israel launches maximum pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry's

A Ben & Jerry's store in Yavne, Israel. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty

The Israeli government has formed a special task force to pressure Ben & Jerry's ice cream and its parent company Unilever to reverse their decision to boycott Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is concerned the move by Ben & Jerry's will encourage other international companies to take similar steps to differentiate between Israel and the West Bank settlements. A classified Foreign Ministry cable, seen by Axios, makes clear the government wants to send a message.

Video game developers at Activision Blizzard say they'll walk out Wednesday

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Employees at Activision Blizzard will hold a walkout Wednesday in protest of widespread harassment allegations across the company, a spokesperson on behalf of the group told Axios.

Why it matters: Walkouts are a drastic measure for developers in a largely non-unionized field, a testament to just how angry employees currently are.