GOP hopefuls rake in fossil fuel $$

Eight of the 17 GOP figures currently jostling for their party’s presidential nomination have between them attracted a bonanza of at least $62m so far this year from sources either directly involved in polluting industries or with close financial ties to them. Three Republican contenders stand out as recipients of this fossil fuel largesse: the Republican climate change denier-in-chief, Ted Cruz; the party establishment favorite Jeb Bush; and the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry.  In February 2014, largest recipient, Ted Cruz told CNN that data did not exist to support the “so-called scientific theory” of global warming.  He said, “satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years”. Last week, at a forum organized by the energy tycoons the Koch brothers in California, Cruz made a statement described by some as “full out denial” in which he repeated his claim that “the data and facts don’t support” the phenomenon of climate change.

The funds have come from just 17 billionaires or businesses that have pumped enormous sums – in one case $15m for a single candidate – into the support groups or Super Pacs that work alongside the official campaigns yet are free to attract unlimited contributions. The $62m forms a substantial chunk of almost $400m that has been given to presidential contenders from both main parties in 2015, raising questions about the leverage that fossil fuel interests might seek to exert over the next occupant of the White House at a critical time for the battle against climate change.

The super-wealthy donors all have connections with oil and gas operations, fracking companies, drilling firms and other activities associated with emissions of industrial carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas. Their money has gone entirely to Republican candidates, signalling a strong preference among fossil fuel billionaires for the GOP.

Connor Gibson, the Greenpeace researcher who oversaw the Greenpeace/Center for Media and Democracy study, said that fossil fuel industries were pouring money into the 2016 election cycle in unprecedented quantities. “To see so much money flowing into the war chests of viable Republican candidates so early in the race from people linked to climate change pollution is very concerning.”

Gibson said it was reasonable to ask what favors might be expected down the line as quid pro quo. “Will these candidates be expected to roll back federal oversight and regulation of fracking and methane leaks? Will they be more likely to allow drilling in the Arctic at a time when scientists are warning that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground?”

The second-largest recipient of major donations from sources linked to polluting industries is Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida who has positioned himself as the leading moderate in the GOP field. Super Pacs supporting his bid for the White House have banked a total of $13.3m from nine separate donors.

On his very first day of official campaigning in June, he criticised Pope Francis for his outspoken call for drastic change to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem”, telling the pope to keep out of global affairs. In May, Bush called the science on climate change “convoluted”, lambasting the vast majority of scientists who say it is now beyond doubt as “really arrogant”.  He added: “I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural.”

Last June, for instance, he said: “I don’t believe that we have the settled science by any sense of the imagination.”

He added: “Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country, and, I believe, a disservice to the world.”

Five other Republican presidential candidates have received smaller amounts from those linked to fossil fuels: Carly Fiorina ($.2m), Lindsey Graham ($1m), Bobby Jindal ($1.2m), Donald Trump ($1.8m) and Scott Walker ($1.8m).

True to form, Trump stands in a class all his own. He is not only one of the GOP recipients of largesse from a donor with links to polluting industries – he also happens to be that donor.

He contributed $1.8m to support his own campaign. As the Greenpeace/Center for Media and Democracy study pointed out, Trump has substantial shareholdings in several non-renewable energy companies including ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum.

According to financial disclosure records, he also has $250,000 worth of stock in TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. In 2011, he was reported as saying that it is “an outrage our president isn’t approving the Keystone pipeline”, the oil pipeline that runs from Canada to the US that has become a focal point of environmental agitation over combating climate change.


Study of donations based on filings to the Federal Election Commission carried out by Greenpeace and the Center for Media and Democracy in collaboration with the Guardian.

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