Hillary Clinton may have transformed into a climate change warrior, but her campaign war chest is polluted by donations from the fossil fuels sector — and some green activists say the influx of cash already is casting a dark cloud over her would-be administration and raises doubts about the sincerity of her environmental agenda.
In the 2016 presidential cycle, Mrs. Clinton has received nearly $1 million in direct campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal companies, along with electric utilities or employees of firms in those industries, according to a Washington Times analysis.
The $1 million figure doesn’t include additional millions of dollars from fossil fuel lobbyists to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, or millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests to super PACs backing the former first lady’s White House bid.
At the same time, Mrs. Clinton is pushing a dramatic environmental agenda that she says will generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America by 2020 and cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2020, the last year of her term should she win.
The donations have led to skepticism among some environmentalists who remain troubled by the disconnect between Mrs. Clinton’s words and her reliance on fossil fuel money to fund her campaign.
“Secretary Clinton should not only stop taking money from fossil fuel companies, but she should also commit to keeping fossil fuel executives and lobbyists out of her administration. The climate crisis is too dire to continue leaning on the oil and gas industry for solutions,” said Benjamin Schreiber, spokesman for Friends of the Earth Action, an environmental group that endorsed Sen. Bernard Sanders early in the Democratic presidential primaries.
“She has continually said we should trust her integrity while trying to hide the extent of her relationships with polluting industries,” Mr. Schreiber continued. “Secretary Clinton has a troubling [history] of support for fossil fuel profits in the face of our climate crisis.”
In 2008 Mrs. Clinton was a proponent of clean coal technologies, and she made a point of telling Americans that the fuel would remain a key piece of U.S. electricity generation for years to come. This time, however, she’s all but declared war on coal, even promising this year to put coal miners out of work if she’s elected.
As a result, donations from the coal-mining sector have dried up. In 2008 she received $20,600 in direct campaign contributions from coal companies or employees of coal companies; this cycle, she’s gotten under $2,000.
But oil-and-gas contributions to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign have actually gone up. In 2008 she received just over $400,000 from oil and gas companies or their employees, and in 2016 she’s already received $525,020. Those figures don’t include donations from lobbyists or donations to pro-Clinton super PACs.
Critics say Mrs. Clinton will make new oil-and-gas infrastructure virtually impossible to build, continuing President Obama’s tack of using regulations to discourage the use of fossil fuels. That raises questions about why fossil fuel companies would give her money in the first place, unless they’re assuming she’s likely to win and want to remain in good standing with a potential Clinton administration.
“She will be the third Obama term. That means things like pipelines will be impossible to site and permit. It means continual downward pressure on capital assets like wells and nuclear and coal-fired power plants,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist, former Energy Department official and president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies.
“The Clinton crew is very clear about all of this. I can only assume the people giving Secretary Clinton [money] either approve of this, are unaware of it or can’t read,” he said.
Mrs. Clinton has received the endorsements of powerful environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s political arm. But those two endorsements came in early June and late May, respectively, after Mrs. Clinton’s primary victory over Mr. Sanders — whose climate change positions are much more aggressive than those of the former first lady — was more or less clinched.
While many environmental organizations clearly are unhappy with Mrs. Clinton’s ties to the fossil fuels industry, they still say there’s no contest between her and Republican Donald Trump on climate issues.
“Greenpeace will continue to push Secretary Clinton to enact a more ambitious climate plan while untangling herself from the fossil fuel industry. Donald Trump, on the other hand, fails to acknowledge that people all over this country are already dealing with the damage that fossil fuel companies have done to our climate,” said Cassady Sharp, a spokesperson from the environmental activist group Greenpeace, which did not endorse a candidate during the Democratic primary.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.