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Updated: 'Draft Beto' Campaign Launches Just as O'Rourke Taken Off 'No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge' List

"It's clear that real climate leaders need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry in many ways, and that includes standing up to the full extent of the fossil fuel industry's influence on our politics."

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) talks with reporters during a campaign stop at Moody Park October 30, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Update:

In order to better clarify why Oil Change USA removed Beto O'Rourke from its list of candidates committed to the "No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge,"  strategic communications director David Turnbull has emphasized his group's belief that the Texas Democrat did not fully understand that he was vowing to reject individual donations from executives who work in the fossil fuel industry, in addition to PAC money from the oil and gas industry.

"It appears that when Beto signed this 'pledge' he actually pledged something similar but not fully the same as our No Fossil Fuel Money pledge," Turnbull explained to Common Dreams. "What he and his campaign believed he was signing was a pledge not to take fossil fuel PAC contributions. That is definitely not the same as the full No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, which includes PACs but also contributions over $200 from executives of fossil fuel companies."

Turnbull went on to stress that O'Rourke must take the next step of totally rejecting donations from fossil fuel executives in order to be a true climate leader and stand up to "the full extent" of the oil and gas industry's influence on the American political system.

Read the earlier story below...

Earlier:

Urging the Texas congressman to run for president, a group of Democratic Party activists enthusiastically launched a "Draft Beto" 2020 campaign on Tuesday—but the timing couldn't have been much worse.

Following a report by Sludge detailing how O'Rourke received dozens of large donations from oil and gas executives during his 2018 Senate run despite signing the "No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge"—a vow to reject donations of over $200 from PACs and executives in the fossil fuel industry—Oil Change USA announced on Tuesday that it has decided to remove the Texas congressman from the list of candidates and lawmakers who have promised to turn away oil and gas money.

"While we are pleased he hasn't taken fossil fuel PAC money, he needs to go further in order to be in compliance with the full No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge."
—David Turnbull, Oil Change USA

According to Sludge's Alex Kotch, a close look at campaign finance records shows that O'Rourke violated the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge dozens of times, receiving $324,650 total in donations of over $200 from executives and other individuals in the fossil fuel industry throughout his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Just after Kotch published his story and shared it on social media, he received an email promoting the "Draft Beto" campaign, which is the second organized effort to get O'Rourke to launch a bid for the White House.

"While we are pleased he hasn't taken fossil fuel PAC money, he needs to go further in order to be in compliance with the full No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge," David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change USA, said of the removal of O'Rourke from the list of candidates and lawmakers who have signed the pledge.

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"It's clear that real climate leaders need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry in many ways, and that includes standing up to the full extent of the fossil fuel industry’s influence on our politics," Turnbull added.

Oil Change and Sludge attempted to reach O'Rourke's congressional office for comment, but they didn't receive a response.

In an attempt to clarify Oil Change's perspective on the pledge and O'Rourke's failure to live up to it, Turnbull later tweeted: "To be clear, it seems Beto lived up to what he thought he was signing up for (rejecting fossil fuel PAC [money]) which is a good thing! We're hopeful he'll sign on to reject fossil fuel executives' [money] as well which the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge includes."

In the days since his narrow loss to Cruz, story after story has appeared in America's major corporate media outlets speculating about an O'Rourke presidential bid.

A sizeable portion of the excitement surrounding O'Rourke's presidential prospects has come from major Democratic Party donors, who are withholding their cash and support from other potential candidates just in case Beto decides to jump in the race.

"Beto O'Rourke's actual political record deserves scrutiny, and it's not what progressives might expect from the overheated adulation that has sent his presidential balloon aloft."
—Norman Solomon, RootsAction.org

"He's game-changing," Robert Wolf, an investment banker who helped former President Barack Obama raise Wall Street money in 2008 and 2012, told Politico last month.

On top of his centrist positions and voting record in the House, the enthusiasm O'Rourke is receiving from the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party has sparked extreme skepticism from progressives, who have argued in recent days that the Texas congressman is not the kind of ambitious left-wing candidate Democrats need in this moment of soaring economic inequality, endless war, healthcare disaster, and planet-threatening climate crisis.

One example cited by O'Rourke's critics is his praise of natural gas production as "a great job opportunity and an environmentally responsible opportunity." Such praise, commentators have noted, is profoundly out of touch with the surging grassroots momentum for a Green New Deal, which a new poll found is backed by 82 percent of Americans.

"Beto O'Rourke's actual political record deserves scrutiny, and it's not what progressives might expect from the overheated adulation that has sent his presidential balloon aloft," Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, argued in a piece for Common Dreams on Tuesday. As evidence, Solomon cited O'Rourke's votes to deregulate banks and grant "fast track" authority to ram through the corporate-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"As candidates and in office, the last two Democratic presidents have been young, dynamic and often progressive-sounding, while largely serving the interests of Wall Street, big banks, military contractors and the like," Solomon concluded. "Do we need to make it three in a row?"

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