At a campaign rally in New York on Thursday, a visibly frustrated Hillary Clinton said she was "sick of" being lied about and waved her finger in the face of a climate activist raising questions about the money her campaign receives from people closely tied to the fossil fuel industry.
"All told, the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 has received more than $4.5 million from lobbyists, bundlers, and large donors connected the fossil fuel industry."
—GreenpeaceConfronted by Eva Resnick-Day, a Greenpeace member who first thanked Clinton for her efforts in "tackling climate change" before asking if she would pledge to "reject fossil fuel money" going forward, Clinton denied the basis of the question.
"I do not have — I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies," Clinton said as she pointed her finger at Resnick-Day. "I am so sick — I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it."
According to a breakdown of political giving put together by Greenpeace, however, Clinton cannot deny that her campaign has received over $1 million thus far from from lobbyists and bundlers connected to the fossil fuel industry and over $300,000 from individuals and executives that work for oil, coal, and gas companies. In addition, the analysis shows that Priorities USA, a super PAC backing Clinton's campaign, has received over $3 million from large donors associated with the fossil fuel sector.
All told, says Greenpeace, the "campaign to elect Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 has received more than $4.5 million from lobbyists, bundlers, and large donors connected the fossil fuel industry."
"We have asked Secretary Clinton multiple times to take our pledge to reject money from fossil fuel interests, yet she continues to downplay the significance of these contributions."
—Eva Resnick-Day, Greenpeace
Though Bernie Sanders has made the issue of corporate power and campaign finance laws a key plank of his platform—and singled out the fossil fuel industry for polluting not only the planet but the political process—there's no indication the campaign had anything to do with Resnick-Day asking the question she posed. In fact, campaigners with a number of climate action groups, including Greenpeace and 350 Action, have been attending rallies throughout the campaign season to press candidates on their positions regarding global warming and asking them to take bolder positions on the issue.
"I’ve been at Hillary Clinton events around the country at rallies where activists have been asking her to stop taking fossil fuels and I was shocked and surprised at her reaction to my question," said Resnick-Day following her interaction with the candidate on Thursday. "We have asked Secretary Clinton multiple times to take our pledge to reject money from fossil fuel interests, yet she continues to downplay the significance of these contributions."
Resnick-Day said that Clinton's dismissal should not, in fact, be dismissed. "Fossil fuel industry lobbyists and bundlers have contributed over $1 million to her campaign, and that doesn’t include the over $3 million from large fossil fuel donors that has gone to the Super PAC supporting her," she said. "To show her commitment to climate change, it is essential for Clinton to label these donations as toxic and reject them once and for all."
Michael Briggs, a spokesperson for the Sanders' campaign who talked with CNN, did not respond to Clinton's accusation that the campaign is lying about her, but indicated Greenpeace was asking the right question. "The truth is that Secretary Clinton has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil and gas industry," said Briggs, citing the Greenpeace report showing that Clinton has taken donations from 57 oil, gas, and coal industry lobbyists.
According to a fact check, it is true that Clinton's campaign hasn’t accepted donations directly from the industry — doing so would violate campaign law — and she hadn’t gotten contributions from PACs affiliated with the industry, either. But she has received more than $330,000 from oil and gas industry employees.
Sanders’ campaign said Thursday evening that Clinton has relied heavily on donations from oil and gas lobbyists and again called on her to accept Sanders’ proposal to debate in New York ahead of its April 19 primary.
“It’s no wonder that back in December Clinton refused to agree to stop accepting money from the fossil fuel industry when pressed at a town hall, saying, ‘I’m not going to do a litmus test on them,’” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. “If Secretary Clinton wants to discuss this and other important issues she should stop stalling and agree to a debate in New York before the April 19 primary election.”
Jamie Henn, a spokesperson for 350 Action, told Common Dreams that Clinton has a ways to go before voters concerned about climate change can trust her on the issue.
"If Hillary wants to prove she's a real climate leader, and not just making empty promises on the campaign trail, she should adopt the pledge Obama took in 2008 and 2012 to not take money from registered lobbyists, especially those that work for Big Oil."
—Jamie Henn, 350 Action"Most of Clinton's top bundlers have ties to the fossil fuel industry. They include the likes of Theresa Fariello, ExxonMobil's top lobbyist in D.C.," said Henn. "If Hillary wants to prove she's a real climate leader, and not just making empty promises on the campaign trail, she should adopt the pledge Obama took in 2008 and 2012 to not take money from registered lobbyists, especially those that work for Big Oil."
Clearly, added Henn, the pressure being applied by the climate justice movement has "struck a nerve" with Clinton. "She knows she's got a mixed track record on climate and needs to do more to shore up that base," Henn said. "It's a sign to us to keep pushing."
Despite Clinton's suggestion that the Sanders campaign was somehow behind Thursday's confrontation, Greenpeace made a point of saying they have no connection whatsoever to either campaign and do not endorse candidates. The group did mention its strategy of asking every 2016 presidential contender to sign a "pledge to fix democracy," which includes rejecting donations from fossil fuel interests. Bernie Sanders, the group said, is the only candidate from either major party to sign it.
As for Clinton, concluded Resnick-Day, she "needs to listen to the people, not fossil fuel interests."