Friday, September 27, 2019

Who pays the piper calls the tune

Leading coal, oil and gas CEOs and some industry lobbyists are channeling millions of dollars to help Trump win in 2020,

Robert Murray, a coal magnate hosted a fundraising dinner this July in West Virginia that hauled in an estimated $2.5m for the president’s re-election coffers. Murray and his eponymous Murray Energy, the nation’s largest privately owned coal company, also has contributed $1m to a Pac that helps push Trump’s energy agenda. Murray, a prominent climate change denier who has ridiculed widely accepted climate change science as “theology” and “politics”, gave the Trump administration a 14-point “action plan” on 1 March 2017 that included killing Obama’s clean power regulations. Murray himself was at EPA headquarters in March 2017 when Trump signed an executive order telling the then EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, to start dismantling Obama’s Clean Power plan.

Texas lobbyist Jeff Miller, who has several big fossil fuel clients and ran energy secretary Rick Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign, raised about $1m in this year’s second quarter for the Trump Victory Committee. Miller, who rounded up $1m in just this year’s second quarter for the Trump campaign, also served as a vice-finance chair of Trump’s inaugural.

Kelcy Warren who heads Energy Transfer, a Texas firm that constructed the controversial Dakota Access pipeline project which in early 2017 got a green light when the army approved a final permit for building it. Warren, who donated $300,000 to Trump’s inaugural, in the second quarter of 2019 chipped in the maximum $360,000 to Trump’s Victory Committee

Robert Maguire, research director at Crew which monitors ethics issues, explained, “While coal, oil and gas interests generously fill President Trump’s war chest, his administration gives them something that’s arguably even more valuable: former industry lobbyists in positions of power at agencies that impact their bottom line, and a deregulatory agenda that reads like a wishlist written by the fossil fuel industry.”

Jerry Taylor, who heads the nonpartisan Niskanen Center, said that fossil fuel companies may have more clout than ever with Trump in office. “It’s hard to identify any industrial sector that has ever had this much success with any administration in modern history. The fossil fuels industry has gotten nearly every single last item on its wishlist from the Trump administration.”

Other coal industry titans like billionaire Joe Craft, the CEO of the nation’s third-largest coal company Alliance Resource Partners, have been riding high in the Trump era. Craft and his wife Kelly Knight Craft, both native Kentuckians with close ties to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, donated a total of $2m to Trump campaign coffers and the inaugural committee.

Likewise the oil and gas billionaire Harold Hamm, who is CEO of Continental Resources and touted Trump’s credentials at the GOP convention in mid 2016, donated $50,000 in this year’s second quarter to Trump’s Victory Committee. Hamm was also one of an elite group of fossil fuel CEOs who wrote big checks to both the inaugural and to outside Pacs that have been instrumental in backing Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Hamm and his company donated $1m to both the inaugural, and another $1m to one of several Pacs that have promoted Trump’s energy policies.

According to a 2018 Public Citizen study, energy industry donors of at least $100,000 gave a total of $8.3m to six outside groups promoting Trump policies from early 2017 through mid-October last year, putting the energy sector right behind gambling and real estate as leading backers of Trump’s policies.

Don Duncan, formerly ConocoPhillips’ top lobbyist, notes that Trump pledges to drain Washington’s influence swamps seem to have fizzled. “Trump hasn’t drained the swamp, he’s just filled it with more alligators.”

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