Posted: 04/02/16 00:17, Edited: 04/02/16 08:15
by Dave Mindeman
Looks like we are entering a new phase of the Democratic campaign. Although it certainly doesn't have the makings of Republican chaos, it looks like we will be going through a bumpy period. The conversations are going to get a little more personal. Guess it has to be expected. It has been a close contest.
But let's examine this controversy about contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Greenpeace, an organization I deeply respect, has been calling out the Clinton campaign on fossil fuel contributions
. And the Sanders campaign is using their data to follow up with similar charges.
There are 3 basic elements to the Greenpeace evidence:
1) Individual donors that work in the industry
. This seems a bit of a stretch on influence, but let's examine it. The Clinton campaign has received $307,561 from employees of the industry. That is 0.2% of her total contributions. Bernie Sanders has also received such contributions. His number is smaller, in the neighborhood of $50,000. In the scheme of things, those are hardly the "influence peddling" type figures. Not to belabor the point, but Bernie did sign the pledge he talks about, of not taking any fossil fuel contributions. If you want to be technical, he violated that pledge. Since that is petty and ridiculous, I think we can dismiss all of this. (For comparison sake, Ted Cruz has taken over $1 million in industry individual contributions.)
Here we get into a little more serious business. It is the lobbyist's job to influence the politics of these things. And yes, the Clinton campaign has received money from the industry lobbyists. Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has pointed that out....Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders's campaign manager, said in a statement that it was "disappointing" that Mrs. Clinton has accused Mr. Sanders's staff of lying on the issue of fossil fuel industry donations. "Fifty-seven lobbyists from the industry have personally given to her campaign and 11 of those lobbyists have bundled more than $1 million to help put her in the White House," he said.
Now the individual lobbyists maximum contribution as individuals is $2700. Most of these 57 lobbyists fit that description. But the 11 lobbyists who bundle are the serious ones. Together they raised over $1 million for the campaign. Bernie doesn't deal with bundlers. But that is a campaign finance method that has been used by virtually all other campaigns - past and present. President Obama had a prolific bundling organization - according to OpenSecrets
, Obama had 769 individual bundlers raise a staggering total of $186,500,000 for Obama's re-election. And a significant portion of those bundlers came from the Securities and Investment industry.
Including these lobbyists, we still only get to 0.8% of the Clinton donations total.
. Jeff Weaver used some more Greenpeace data to add more evidence..."If you include money given to super PACs backing Clinton, the fossil fuel industry has given more than $4.5 million in support of Clinton's bid," Mr. Weaver said.
It is a little difficult to add this to any kind of influence pressure. After all, Clinton cannot coordinate in any way with a SuperPac, and truthfully, she probably had no idea where the SuperPac gets its funds. The only reason she knows about these contributions is because Greenpeace investigated it.
Bernie's campaign can always make this an issue, because they have the formula to live off of individual donations. Frankly, it is incredible and he has every right to brag and use it to point out the inequities of the current system.
But to attack Clinton on the fossil fuel issue? She is pretty much in agreement with all of Bernie's positions on climate change. She came out against the Keystone XL. She has a program she wants to start that will make solar panels more affordable and useful for everyone. And she and Bernie both attack the GOP for their climate denial. The only daylight between them, may be on fracking. Bernie is ready to eliminate it, while Clinton is more hesitant because she wants more data on it and she is not willing to risk the jobs involved just yet. But Bernie definitely has the stronger position in that regard.
But this whole fracas is not worth having a fight about. After all, 97.7% of all fossil fuel industry contributions go to Republicans. They know where their bread and butter lies.
Individual contributions from people in an industry are hard to portray as influencing a candidate. For comparison's sake, Bernie's campaign gets $2.5 million in those type of contributions from Google. Does that mean that they have an influence pipeline to Bernie? Of course not.
This disagreement is worthy of discussion between the Democratic candidates, and Bernie has the high ground on campaign finance. No question about it. But let's keep the discussion on the merits.
Let's try not to get personal.Related article in Washington Post.