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The DNC Just Lifted Their Ban on Fossil Fuel Contributions. Who Will Say No to the Tide of “Dark Oily” Money?

As the 2020 primary begins, individual Democrats must show climate leadership by taking the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge

"We cannot responsibly support politicians taking money from the companies which directly imperil our future." (Photo: Twitter/Sunrise Movement)

"We cannot responsibly support politicians taking money from the companies which directly imperil our future." (Photo: Twitter/Sunrise Movement)

Rising stars of the Democratic party are championing marijuana decriminalization, calling to #AbolishICE, and flirting with exciting policies for “universal” housing, jobs, and healthcare. Now, it's time for these Democratic leaders to show they stand with our generation by pledging to reject campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

Senators Cory Booker (NJ), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kamala Harris (CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) have already sworn off corporate PAC donations, differentiating themselves from a Trump agenda that most Americans believe only benefits corporations’ interests and lobbyists.

Their leadership has returned imagination to national politics and begun rebuilding faith in the Democratic party. But progress paused, when the Democratic National Committee revoked their popular ban on direct contributions from fossil fuel companies on August 10th.

Two months previously, the DNC resolved to eliminate fossil fuel contributions, stating the industry is “drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money” which “deceived the public about the impacts of climate change and corrupted our political system.” Their decision signalled to voters that fossil fuel executives would no longer dictate our democracy.

Now, all that dark oily money is back. As the 2020 primary begins, individual Democrats must show climate leadership by taking the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge.

The pledge is a candidate’s promise to not knowingly accept contributions over $200 from oil, coal, or gas companies. It’s broader than just corporate PAC money, like the DNC’s resolution. It applies to all donors, including individual executives, front groups, and lobbyists.

Two out of three American voters believe that climate change will hurt their way of life within the next half-century and national leaders must get involved.

The pledge is a litmus test for a candidate’s real commitment to the environment and reducing corporate influence on politics. Circulated by Sunrise Movement, 350 Action, Greenpeace and other climate groups, over 60,ooo voters are actively petitioning their candidates to take the pledge. Almost one thousand 2018 candidates nationwide have pledged #NoFossilFuelMoney.

Sunrise is a millennial-led movement working to transform young people’s anger and frustration of the last forty years of political inaction on climate into long-term grassroots power for change. One of the main culprits is the corrupting influence of oil and gas CEO and lobbyist money on our political system.

Since 2000, the fossil fuel industry has pumped $2 billion into Congressional races to block the pursuit of more ambitious climate leadership. That’s ten times more spending than environmental groups.

Oil and gas magnates like the billionaire Koch Brothers have used their massive wealth to change the legislative direction of both political parties. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each accepted more than $900,000 from fossil fuel companies during their presidential campaigns. While 88% of the industry’s 2016 contributions went to Republicans, Democrats still received $7.6 million for national races.

The progressives are no exception. Since 2014, Gillibrand received $197, 783, Warren accepted $168,561, and Booker took home $92,863 (read more). This might not seem like a lot of money, but it sends a dangerous message-- a politician can identify as a “progressive” and still take money from the fossil fuel industry.

That must change. By pledging to walk away from the fossil fuel industry’s influence, these national figures demonstrate bold leadership and set a powerful precedent for the rest of the party.

On record, the rumored Democratic presidential-hopefuls promise climate leadership. But only Bernie Sanders has taken action by pledging #NoFossilFuelMoney.

In light of the DNC’s announcement, Sunrise has delivered the pledge to rumored 2020 presidential-hopefuls including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley and Kamala Harris.

It’s time to pledge because public opinion has shifted since 2016. Two out of three American voters believe that climate change will hurt their way of life within the next half-century and national leaders must get involved.
 
Millennials and Generation Z will be the largest voting bloc in the 2018 and 2020 elections, and we’re registering to vote in increasing numbers. We cannot responsibly support politicians taking money from the companies which directly imperil our future.
 
Millennials were crucial to the Democratic wins in recent special elections. We come from diverse communities already feeling the impacts of the crisis, including record-breaking, life-shattering events like Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Harvey, and California’s wildfires. So, unsurprisingly, we can only support candidates demonstrating a significant break with their district’s status quo on climate issues like Representatives-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Rashida Tlaib (MI).
 
It’s especially painful to see the DNC take this step backwards because 950+ individual Democratic candidates have pledged, embracing a stronger stance on fossil fuel contributions than the party’s previous June resolution.

Democrats hoping to win back the House and contend in 2020 need to inspire higher millennial voter turnout. Since eighty percent of young people want to transition America to clean energy by 2030, pledging #NoFossilFuelMoney is a good place to start. We are asking you to stand up to the DNC’s decision to realign themselves with fossil fuel industry lobbyists. Protect the health of our homes, our families, and our democracy.

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Jesse Meisenhelter

Jesse Meisenhelter

Jesse Meisenhelter is a millennial organizing with Sunrise – a movement of young people uniting to take climate action and create millions of good jobs in the process.

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