*Originally published on RYOT.org on August 3rd, 2015 by Sean Sawyer*
Between the two major American political parties, the Democrats have been more progressive trying to educate and curb climate change. Obama’s administration has worked with the EPA in finding ways to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions and increasing renewable energy sources. But could all of this be erased if Hillary Clinton is elected President?
Hillary Clinton is the lone Democratic candidate who is accepting Super PAC money. So far, she has raised $67.8 million for her campaign, $20.3 million has come from Super PACs, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, the other candidates have refused to take money from Super PACs so they will not be obligated to Big Money. Bernie Sanders is second in the Democratic Primary funding with $15.2 million, a huge deficit behind the Democratic leading Clinton.
Clinton has been on the record as saying, “The decisions we make in the next decade can make all of this possible, or they can keep us trapped in the past. We cannot wait any longer.”
Clinton is accepting money from large companies and organizations whose interests contradict the Democratic Party’s platform. ExxonMobil VP and Washington lobbyist Theresa Fariello has donated $21,200 to Clinton’s campaign. ExxonMobil has a long history of trying to hide their affiliation with climate change denial. ExxonMobil is also investing in oil rigs in the Arctic Ocean, according to Bloomberg, which has upset Russia and would need the backing of the American government to ensure its right to drill in the Arctic despite Russian protest.
Clinton supports Clean Power Plant regulations, but is taking money from lobbyist Brian Wolff, affiliated with Edison Electric Institute who lobbies against said regulations. Chevron is also opposed to these regulations, but Clinton is taking money from two of its lobbyists, Scott Parven and Brian Pomper. They also lobby for tax breaks for their huge company, something that Clinton also has opposed.
Clinton has been very careful when answering questions about her stance on the Keystone XL Pipeline. She has neither supported nor denied support of the pipeline, which could cause major environmental issues if constructed. And it’s worth noting that she has taken money from TransCanada’s lobbyist Gordon Giffin. Also, TransCanada’s top lobbyist, Paul Elliot, served as Clinton’s national deputy director during her 2008 Presidential run.
Clinton has taken over $100,000 from Heather Podesta and Tony Podesta. Heather Podesta was a lobbyist for the Koch Brothers, supporting their ties to the coal industry. Tony Podesta lobbies for Golden Pass, a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum, and his brother is Clinton’s campaign chair and was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. Both Heather and Tony have represented major oil and coal companies, but they do also support renewable energy companies like SolarReserve.
Taking all of this money is sticking Clinton between a rock and a hard place. She is facing a major grassroots movement by Bernie Sanders and an organized plan by O’Malley to combat climate change. Can she effectively propose climate change policies while her campaign is simultaneously accepting funds from from fossil fuel affiliated lobbyists?
On one hand, she has said, “It’s hard to believe there are people running for president who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change, who would rather remind us they’re not scientists than listen to those who are. You don’t have to be a scientist to take on this urgent challenge that threatens us all. You just have to be willing to act.” And Clinton has even pledged to continue what Obama has started regarding renewable energy. She wants to have more than 500 million solar panels installed across the country by 2020 and to have self-sustaining clean energy generate all homes in America in 10 years.
However, she is still reluctant to move away from fossil fuels, claiming that she is defending worker jobs. Clinton explains, “But I think people know that I will fight for them, I’ll fight for their jobs, I’ll fight for their families … I have a proven track record.”
Ultimately, the question is whether Clinton’s cash connections will hurt her with Democratic primary voters. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, only 33% of Iowa voters find her trustworthy, home to the first 2016 voting contest. Additionally, only 34% of Colorado voters think she can be trusted along with 39% of Virginia voters.
Those numbers may not actually make a difference on Election Day. After all, Clinton has the money and name recognition to power through even a tough primary. But don’t be surprised if the issue continues to trail her throughout the early months of the campaign.