The Democratic National Committee’s executive committee passed a resolution introduced by DNC chair Tom Perez, which encourages donations from employee political action committees in the fossil fuel industry.
Perez introduced the resolution to show that the Democrats are committed to supporting workers and unions that “power the American economy.” But it directly undermines a resolution passed in June that banned contributions from political action committees, which represent fossil fuel companies.
“The DNC gratefully acknowledges and will continue to welcome the longstanding and generous contributions of workers, including those in energy and related industries, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates individually or through their unions’ or employers’ political action committees,” the resolution declares [PDF].
Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and member of the DNC’s executive committee, attempted to have the words “employers’ political action committees” removed. The resolution she introduced to do that was voted down 28-4.
The resolution to ban corporate PAC money that passed in June was introduced by Pelosi. After this vote, she tweeted, “DNC staff and officers NEVER consulted me on language to reverse my resolution banning corporate fossil fuel PAC money and now said they have to keep the resolution as is because of all the work *we* did.”
“We will live to fight another day, and end Citizens United,” Pelosi added.
R.L. Miller, the elected chair of the California Democratic Party’s environmental caucus, condemned the language in the resolution.
“I am furious that the DNC would effectively undo a resolution passed just two months ago just as the movement to ban fossil fuel corporate money is growing (and Democrats are winning),” Miller stated.
Molly Kelly, a Democratic candidate for governor in New Hampshire, issued a statement against the resolution. “The DNC is wrong. The harmful effects of climate change are apparent on an almost daily basis. Those of us who care deeply about protecting our environment should not fund our campaigns with donations from one of the biggest contributors of climate change, the fossil fuel industry.”
Cynthia Nixon, who is running in the Democratic primary against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, reacted, “You can’t do right when you’re getting donations from companies that do wrong.”
“The issue goes beyond the donations. At least as drafted, this proposal also recommits the party to an ‘all of the above’ energy stance, which was taken out of the platform after a lot of hard work in 2016,” Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, added. (McKibben served on DNC Platform Committee as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders.)
When Huffington Post reporter Alex Kaufman contacted the DNC for comment on the resolution, a spokesperson for the DNC argued it was “not a reversal” but refused to elaborate.
Kaufman notes activists within the party, including Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, wanted to see the DNC pass a resolution that banned Democrats from accepting “contributions over $200 from individuals who work for the fossil fuel industry.”
This resolution from Perez seemed intended to reassure workers at energy companies that the Democratic Party supports what they do, regardless of whether the companies they work for are responsible for pollution, environmental injustice, and other acts that fuel disruption of the Earth’s climate.
It condemned Republicans and their “wealthy corporate allies” for “chipping away at workers’ rights, weakening unions, and depressing wages—all while giving massive cuts to millionaires and billionaires” and the recent anti-union Supreme Court decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME.
Yet, the resolution from Perez fits into a policy of the DNC that surrogates of Hillary Clinton sought to protect during DNC Platform Committee meetings in 2016.
Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees (AFSCME) executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden all voted against having a ban on fracking in the party’s platform.
The bloc consistently deployed what Dr. Cornel West, a Sanders surrogate, described as “neoliberal rationalizations of corporate power” to block a carbon tax and support for keeping 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to curb climate change. They opposed supporting a test that the government would apply to energy infrastructure projects so those projects could be rejected if they would contribute considerably to climate change. And the same bloc opposed halting the abuse of eminent domain in the fossil fuel industry.
Notably, AFSCME’s Paul Booth put forward a rambling argument against a fracking ban that invoked jobs. He said the AFL-CIO and many other unions were opposed. He also made a political argument in defense of allowing the natural gas industry to continue to destroy communities with pollution.
“These jobs are in the most significantly important battleground states that we have to carry in order to win the election that we have coming up,” Booth contended.
That may be part of why Perez is putting forward this resolution. They believe it will help Democrats win in “battleground states” in the 2018 midterm elections.
Of course, it does not appear this calculation on the part of Clinton Democrats played any role in helping them win in the 2016 elections. The Republican Party trounced Democrats, won the presidency, and maintained control of the Senate and House.
As West said before the environmental resolutions were voted down, “It just strikes me that the argument about jobs and the argument about states does not reflect the depth of urgency, impending catastrophe, that was putting forward.”
He concluded Clinton Democrats and those in leadership positions of the DNC were expressing insights that were not “informed by the unbelievable sense of us being on the edge of the abyss as a species vis a vis nature.”
There are record-breaking wildfires devastating California. Globally, the planet is experiencing the fourth-hottest year on record. The three hottest years were the three previous ones, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
But rather than take a meaningful step to divest from fossil fuel companies, the Democrats want to make certain they do not offend energy workers by going too far in combating destruction of the climate, even as President Donald Trump’s EPA rolls back another necessary regulation every other day.
If Democrats need fossil fuel energy workers this badly to win, perhaps, the Democrats should pursue another strategy to win in November—a strategy that does not help Trump, Republicans, and dirty energy companies maintain their power and influence so they can obstruct any action against climate change.
Editor’s Note: The post was updated at 9 pm ET to reflect the fact that the DNC Executive Committee passed the resolution in complete defiance of those who believe corporate money should not have such an influence over campaigns and elections.