Top Companies Are Undermining
Climate Pledges with Political Donations
Maxine Joselow / The Washington Post
(February 24, 2022) — Some of the nation’s best-known corporations are undermining their promises to slash emissions by donating significant sums to elect Republican attorneys general, who have emerged as frequent courtroom foes of climate policies and regulations, according to a report shared exclusively with The Climate 202.
The report by the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate political spending disclosures, looked at top companies that have set pledges to reduce planet-warming emissions, including household names such as Walmart, Amazon, AT&T, Uber and Citigroup.
It found that in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 election cycles, 75 of these companies gave more than $772,000 to 16 Republican attorneys general candidates, according to contributions reported to the Internal Revenue Service and secretary of state offices.
In addition, 58 of these companies each gave $100,000 or more to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which funnels money directly to candidates’ campaigns.
Findings on specific companies include:
- Walmart has set targets of reaching net-zero emissions across its global operations by 2040 and reducing supply chain emissions by 1 billion metric tons by 2030. But the retail company gave $180,325 to RAGA in the 2016 election cycle, $182,750 in the 2018 cycle and $270,100 in the 2020 cycle. Walmart also donated $12,500 in the 2020 cycle to the campaign of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R), who joined a lawsuit to stop President Biden from revoking a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Amazon, which has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its business by 2040, donated $150,000 to RAGA and $10,000 to Reyes in the 2020 election cycle. And in the 2019 cycle, the company gave $5,000 to the campaign of Louisiana Attorney GeneralJeff Landry (R), who led a recent lawsuit to block the Biden administration from using the social cost of carbon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
- AT&T, which has a commitment to be carbon-neutral across its global operations by 2035, gave $105,350 to RAGA in the 2016 campaign cycle, $125,000 in the 2018 cycle and $250,000 in the 2020 cycle.
The findings demonstrate that “these corporations are really undercutting the emissions goals, pledges and policies that they’ve put in place,” said Carlos Holguin, research director at the Center for Political Accountability.
Bruce Freed, president and co-founder of the center, said the report highlights a business risk for companies that have not aligned their political spending practices with their climate objectives.
Asked for comment on the findings, Amazon spokeswoman Tina Pelkey pointed to a recent blog post that details the company’s support for policy action on climate change.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an email: “Historically we’ve supported organizations of both parties like the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Our political contributions do not mean we support every view of an elected official.”
Hargrove added that Walmart donated $125,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association in the 2016 election cycle, $125,000 in the 2018 cycle and $240,000 in the 2020 cycle.
Spokespeople for RAGA and AT&T did not respond to requests for comment.
The report highlights two instances in which Republican attorneys general successfully sued to block major climate policies and regulations from taking effect.
- In Louisiana v. Biden, 10 Republican-led states sued to prevent the Biden administration from raising the social cost of carbon, a key metric that assigns a dollar value to the harm caused by each additional ton of greenhouse gas pollution. On Feb. 11, a Louisiana federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that barred the Biden administration from using the metric in a range of consequential decisions. The Justice Department is appealing the decision.
- InWyoming v. Department of Interior, Republican-led states and industry groups sought to block Barack Obama‘s 2016 rule to reduce venting and flaring of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from natural gas operations on public and tribal lands. In 2020, a federal judge in Wyoming struck downmost of the Obama-era rule, finding that the Bureau of Land Management had exceeded its authority and acted arbitrarily and capriciously.
“When companies give to RAGA, they may think it’s just another third-party group, and they may not realize the consequences,” said Freed of the Center for Political Accountability.
“But they have very serious consequences,” he said, “and companies bear a great deal of responsibility for them.”
With research by Vanessa Montalbano.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.