Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency of the United States is powered by a lot of fossil fuel money. How can this be, when nearly all of the industry’s contributions are going to Republicans? For one, the oil and gas giants are very, very wealthy, so just a small Democratic leak from the pipeline adds up quickly. Moreover, Clinton has a lot of support from the nation’s corporate lobbyists, many of whom represent fossil fuel companies. Finally, Clinton’s wealthy backers come primarily from the world of finance—hedge-fund billionaires, investment bankers, and Wall Street executives.
As it turns out, there’s a dirty secret in the world of wealth—bankers finance the oil, gas, and coal sectors. This uncomfortable truth has come to the fore thanks to the growing divestment movement: university endowments, pension funds, foundations, and institutional investors who claim concern about climate change are being challenged to end their catastrophic investments and instead invest in a clean future.
Those with great wealth almost invariably have dirty investments. There are very few billionaires not actively invested in destroying our planet’s climate. (In fact, there may be only one: hedge-fund-manager-turned-climate-activist Tom Steyer divested in 2014.)
And Clinton has more billionaire supporters than any other presidential candidate. Nine in ten dollars raised for Hillary Clinton’s campaign have come from large donors—a mere 22 people have contributed $43 million.
In recent years, the domestic fracking and oil-shale boom has been a prime area for investment by Wall Street tycoons, including the financiers on Team Hillary. If the no-compromise climate platform of Bernie Sanders were to be implemented, these investors would lose billions. In fact, they need a resurgence of the industry—in line with Clinton’s proposed pro-fracking platform—to recoup their investments.
Team Hillary’s Big Bets on Fracking
The examples are easy to find, even in New York City’s backyard. Wall Street lost big in 2015 when New York banned fracking, but the fossil fuel industry has hardly been exiled from the state. One of the most contentious fights in New York today is over the construction of the Constitution Pipeline, which is intended to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England. Williams Co. has been using eminent domain to cut through landowners’ properties to build the pipeline.
While Bernie Sanders has come out in opposition to the project, Team Hillary is invested in the pipeline’s success: hedge-fund billionaire Richard C. Perry, who hosted Clinton’s very first campaign fundraiser at his Manhattan penthouse apartment, has over $207 million invested in Williams, among other fossil fuel gambles. Hedge-fund billionaire David E. Shaw, a $1.5 million contributor to Clinton’s Super PAC, has a $237 million stake. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton superdelegate Tonio Burgos is a top Williams lobbyist for the pipeline.
Another key Hillary Clinton billionaire is Marc Lasry, who gave Chelsea Clinton her first job out of college at his hedge fund. Lasry is bullish on Hillary—and on the fracking industry. He has a $1.3 billion fracking junk-bond fund that has lost most of its value as natural gas prices have plummeted, but he’s confident in the long-term future of fracking. Don’t worry too much for Lasry—he’s betting other people’s money on this, including $200 million in Pennsylvania schoolteacher pensions.
Follow the Money
These are hardly outlier examples—pick a fossil fuel project or company, and it’s easy to follow the money back to a Clinton financier.
Sometimes you find a corporate lobbyist, like bundlers Ankit Desai of liquid-natural-gas giant Cheniere Energy and Theresa Fariello of ExxonMobil.
Sometimes you find a mega-billionaire, like coal and oil-train profiteer Warren Buffett.
Sometimes it’s a multi-millionaire investment banker, like Roger C. Altman, CEO of Evercore Partners, one of the top advisors to fracking industry mergers and acquisitions deals.
Sometimes you find an oil-soaked Democratic-politician-turned-lobbyist, like Hillary Clinton’s former fellow senators Evan Bayh (on the board of Marathon Petroleum) or Mary Landrieu (a FutureGen lobbyist).
What’s the Big Deal?
Clinton has chastised and laughed at young climate activists asking her to stop taking fossil fuel money. Bolstered by media fact-checkers who have rejected analyses of her campaign fundraising by environmental watchdogs, she has called claims of significant contributions “absolutely an incorrect false charge.”
It’s a matter of opinion how deep Clinton’s dirty-money billionaires are in with the fossil fuel industry. For example, six percent of George Soros’ $5.4 billion hedge fund is invested in coal, oil, and gas. Now, that six percent equals $315 million, which most people would consider a lot of money. Soros has pumped $8 million into Clinton’s Super PACs (six percent of that is $480,000, the equivalent of two Hillary Clinton speeches).
Team Hillary has a complex financial structure reflecting our nation’s byzantine campaign finance situation—in addition to the official campaign committee (Hillary for America) and a primary Super PAC (Priorities USA), there are also coordinated messaging Super PACs (Correct the Record/American Bridge) and a soft-money campaign fund which funnels large contributions through the national and state Democratic parties (Hillary Victory Fund), to name just a few.
Hillary Clinton also has directly received millions in speaking fees from corporate America (and foreign interests), as has her family’s Clinton Foundation, a 501c(3) that has received contributions from governments such as Kuwait and corporations such as ExxonMobil.
Greenpeace researchers tie $4.5 million in contributions from fossil fuel interests to Clinton; the Washington Post and the New York Times recognize dramatically smaller figures. The difference largely turns on whether one considers bankers with fossil fuel investments and corporate lobbyists with fossil fuel clients to be sources of fossil fuel money—Greenpeace does, and the Washington Post does not.
The reality is unavoidable: Hillary Clinton’s presidential run is fueled by carbon financiers.
Here’s an incomplete list of the fossil fuel financiers behind the Clinton campaign:
- George Soros, $8,000,000 to Priorities USA and American Bridge. Currently, Soros Fund Management has $315 million invested in the fossil fuel industry—six percent of a $5.4 billion portfolio. A top holding is $95 million in the Columbia Pipeline Group, a nationwide natural-gas pipeline company.
- Donald Sussman, $2,500,000 to Priorities USA. Founder and chairman of Paloma Partners. The hedge fund is invested in energy companies like Phillips 66, Halliburton, and Occidental Petroleum, as well as fossil fuel utilities such as NextEra Energy, Black Hills, and Teco Energy.
- David E. Shaw, $1,500,000 to Priorities USA. Shaw’s fund has an outsized 9.2% stake in energy companies. The fund has huge stakes in fossil fuel companies, including $894 million in Berkshire Hathaway, $653 million in Schlumberger, $466 million in Marathon Petroleum, $407 million in Phillips 66, $327 million in Tesoro Corporation, $237 million in Williams, and $227 million in Baker Hughes.
- Marc Lasry, bundled at least $300,000 for Hillary Clinton. President of Avenue Capital Group. He manages the $1.3 billion Avenue Energy Opportunities Fund, which invests in the debt of “distressed” energy companies. The Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System has invested $200 million in Lasry’s fracking junk-bond fund.
- Roger C. Altman, $250,000 to Priorities USA. President of Evercore Partners. Since 2010, the investment bank has developed a major oil and gas division. In 2015, Evercore was “as busy or busier than ever” with fossil fuel sector deals.
- Charles Myers, bundled at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton. Senior managing director of Evercore Partners.
- Evan Bayh, bundled at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton. Board member of Marathon Petroleum since 2011.
- Lisa Perry, bundled at least $100,000 for Hillary Clinton. Lisa’s husband Richard C. Perry is the billionaire founder of Perry Corp. The hedge fund has over $400 million (20% of its assets) invested in oil and gas companies, including leading natural gas pipeline companies such as Williams Co., Spectra Energy, Columbia Pipeline Group, and Energy Transfer Equity.
- Tonio Burgos, New Jersey for Hillary Clinton superdelegate. Top Williams Companies lobbyist.