In a heartening move, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) agreed last weekend that it won’t accept any donations from corporate political action committees representing oil, gas, or coal companies.
They won’t be missing out on much actual money: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group tracking how money is spent on politics, the coal industry has given 94 percent of its donations to Republicans during the current election cycle, and the oil and gas industry has given 89 percent of its campaign donations to Republicans so far in the lead-up to this year’s midterms (Paul Ryan, who’s not even running, has garnered the largest share, almost $490,000).
Meanwhile, over at the White House, this month Trump ordered his energy secretary, Rick Perry, to figure out how to protect coal-fired and nuclear power plants that are struggling to keep pace with newer plants. The administration is even considering a draft proposal that would require energy companies to purchase power from coal and nuclear plants.
The DNC’s decision to eschew donations from the fossil fuel industry stemmed from a proposal offered by Christine Pelosi, an activist in the party and daughter of the House Minority Leader, and was approved by a unanimous vote of the executive committee. In an open letter Pelosi published on Medium, she called on the DNC to join the hundreds of individual Democratic candidates who have pledged to reject fossil-fuel industry cash. The group Oil Change USA lists more than 600 candidates for local, state, and federal office who have signed its No Fossil Fuels pledge, agreeing not to knowingly accept more than $200 from “PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies,” including those engaged in extraction, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal. The list includes Democratic hopefuls like Randy Bryce, who’s running for Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin House seat, and California governor candidate Gavin Newsom.
Plus, there’s been a big push among Democratic candidates to pledge not to accept money from any corporate PACs—prominent politicians who are expected to throw their hats in the ring for the 2020 presidential race, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren, have all publicly stated that they won’t accept such funds. Kamala Harris, who earlier this year said at a public forum that she would take offers on a case-by-case basis, announced in April that she, too, would refuse donations from all corporate PACs.
The DNC’s rejection of fossil fuel donations moves it a little closer to being in step with Democratic voters and progressive candidates who want to cut down the amount of corporate money in politics, and the organization is considering going even further later this summer: At an August board meeting, it will consider another resolution that will limit the amount that employees of fossil fuel companies can donate to $200.
If the Democratic party really wants its candidates recognized as the reasonable voices on climate change policy, rejecting money from polluters is a vital step.