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Journalist Emily Atkin, in her climate newsletter HEATED, dubbed newly elected DNC member RL Miller "Tom Perez's worst nightmare" for the longtime activist's willingness to challenge the body's current chair.

Journalist Emily Atkin, in her climate newsletter HEATED, dubbed newly elected DNC member RL Miller "Tom Perez's worst nightmare" for the longtime activist's willingness to challenge the body's current chair. (Photos: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc; HEATED)

"Tom Perez's Worst Nightmare": Newly Elected DNC Member RL Miller to Push Dems on Climate

The longtime activist has set her sights on the party's platform, fossil fuel industry donations, and a climate debate in the next presidential race.

Jessica Corbett

RL Miller, founder of the advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote, was elected to the Democratic National Committee last Friday—and she intends to push the Democratic Party's governing body to improve how it handles the climate crisis and fossil fuel industry, according to a Thursday interview in Emily Atkin's HEATED newsletter.

Atkin dubbed Miller "Tom Perez's worst nightmare" for the California climate activist's willingness to take the fight directly to the DNC chair. During his tenure, Perez has come under fire from campaigners and progressive party members for refusing to hold a climate debate in this year's presidential race and reversing a ban on the DNC taking fossil fuel money.

Asked by Atkin if she intends to make a lot of noise about the climate crisis within the DNC, Miller said: "I really hope to be able to tell Tom Perez, to his face, to fuck off. I shouldn't say that, should I? Oh, sure, I'll say that."

"There's so much to say about how badly he handled the climate debate. But there's one thing that infuriates me, that I was able to use to persuade people who didn't care about climate to vote for me," Miller added. "Tom Perez is running the DNC from the top down. He doesn't have the DNC body vote on major things."

In a tweet Monday confirming her election to the DNC, Miller wrote, "I ran on a platform of climate, transparency, and accountability, and I intend to keep that promise."

Miller's priorities include ensuring a climate debate for the next presidential primary, strengthening the climate language in the Democratic Party's official policy platform, and addressing Perez's 2018 resolution that reversed a short-lived ban on the DNC taking donations from fossil fuel political action committees.

"Fossil fuel money is toxic. It is drowning our democracy in a dark, oily wave," she said. "For the DNC to continue to taking fossil fuel money while it supports a pro-climate platform makes them vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. They're trying to ban fossil fuels while they're still continuing to take fossil fuel money. What's up with that? That's wrong. So I want to fix it."

Broadly, Miller explained:

There is a lot of stuff I want to get done on the DNC, and it's going to be really slow-going because it's an institution that doesn't like change. But I fight oil companies for my day job, so I'm used to taking on tough fights.

I have tried to pass a resolution to get the DNC to stop taking fossil fuel money. I was working on the outside with [DNC member] Christine Pelosi working on the inside. We got it done. Then Tom Perez reversed us two months later. If I bring it up again, I would be on the inside. Perhaps I would be more able to make a difference.

I want to work on basic transparency. California elects 20 DNC members, and we know who our DNC members are. If people don't like what I do, they're going to vote me out of office. But there are many states where people don't know who their DNC members even are.

Miller, who lives in Southern California, is a survivor of the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which came within 500 feet of her home. "That fire made it really personal for me," Miller told Atkin, describing an exercise she does at large gatherings for the California Democratic Party as chair of the Environmental Caucus.

She begins by asking anyone from the devastated town of Paradise, California to stand up, followed by people who have been directly impacted by recent wildfires, followed by anyone who knows someone affected by the climate crisis-fueled fires.

"I've done this several times, in rooms of hundreds of people. Everybody, everybody, knows somebody," Miller said. "This is not something happening in the future. This is already happening."


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