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The Hidden Oil Spill that Polluted the Democratic Convention


July 31, 2016
The Guardian & Robert Reich & The New York Times

Environmentalists say panels sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute -- the nation's main fossil fuel lobby group -- helped to undermine the party platform's stance on energy and climate change. Environmental activists charged that a series of events sponsored by oil and gas industry lobbyists were designed to "pollute" the Democratic National Convention with climate denialism and should have been boycotted by leading Democrats.

http://grist.org/election-2016/industry-events-left-an-oily-sheen-on-the-democratic-convention/

Industry Events Left an
Oily Sheen on the Democratic Convention

Oliver Milman / The Guardian UK

PHILADELPHIA (July 30, 2016) -- A series of events sponsored by the oil and gas industry are "polluting" the Democratic national convention with climate denialism and should be boycotted by leading Democrats, according to environmentalists.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) has underwritten five events hosted in Philadelphia during the convention by media organizations Politico and The Atlantic.

The events, which promote API's Vote4Energy campaign, provide delegates and other attendees with literature and signage extolling the benefits of oil and gas drilling.

While both Politico and the Atlantic said that API, the US's leading fossil fuel lobby group, does not hold any sway over the content of the panel discussions, green groups claimed the events have allowed the denial of climate science to seep into the Democratic gathering.

"These polluting events have a complete disrespect for the scientific facts and we are very concerned about the influence that fossil fuels have here," said Brad Johnson, executive director of Climate Hawks Vote, a political action group which has a 10,000-strong petition urging Democrats to boycott the events.

The group said it was disappointed the Atlantic and Politico had accepted the lobby group's money. "API deliberately disseminate misinformation and journalists should have ethical and professional qualms about that," Johnson said.

A batch of documents released earlier this year showed that API was made aware of "serious worldwide environmental changes" caused by the burning of oil and gas more than 45 years ago. Despite this knowledge, the industry funded and encouraged climate denial groups for several decades before finally acknowledging the realities of climate change.

The 2016 Democratic platform calls for the Department of Justice to "investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change".

Despite this stance, several leading Democrats have agreed to appear at the API-sponsored events. On Wednesday, a Politico event featured Trevor Houser, Clinton's top energy adviser, alongside John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee, Democratic governors of Colorado and Washington, respectively.

During a somewhat fraught debate, which included several attempted stage invasions by anti-fracking activists and a threat by one Bernie Sanders supporter to pour soup over Houser, each attendee was given booklets produced by API.

The literature, called "Principles for American energy progress", hails a "new era" in free market energy in which increased domestic oil and gas production has lowered energy and gasoline prices. The booklet cites unsourced research that shows 77% of Americans support increased production of oil and gas, including 64% of Democrats.

The booklet, which does not contain the words "climate change", criticizes regulation and the "shifting of standards to levels that achieve no demonstrable health benefit". An accompanying website cites the activities that oil and gas make possible, such as picnics.

Jack Gerard, president and chief executive of API, addressed the crowd before the panel talk and praised the impact of "abundant, affordable, clean-burning natural gas" for bringing down America's total greenhouse gas emissions.

"When you look at the science and data, we can help consumers, help the country and lead the world in environmental protection," he said, ignoring a cry of "that's a lie" from a protester.

Politico and the Atlantic also held API-sponsored events at the Republican national convention in Cleveland last week. According to the Intercept, the Washington Post also hosted a climate event, in which Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn claimed the world was "cooling down".

In fact there is a clear trend of warming temperatures, with 2016 highly likely to be the warmest year on record. It will beat a mark set in 2015, which itself topped record heat in 2014. Scientists estimate that about three-quarters of all discovered fossil fuels must remain unburned if the world is to avoid disastrous climate change. While natural gas is far less carbon-intensive than coal or oil, it can still lead to significant emissions, particularly if methane is released during drilling.

Politico pointed the Guardian to its events policy, which states: "We welcome suggestions from sponsors, however, final decisions about event content remain with the Politico newsroom." It adds that Politico "does not permit sponsors to sit on panels that they underwrite".

A spokeswoman for The Atlantic said the publication has "full editorial control of what's on stage at our events; the underwriter plays no role in that part of the process. We make all decisions about our content: speaker and moderator selection, the experience on stage, the questions asked."

She added that the events "bring a range of viewpoints to the stage and never promote one point of view or another". Neither Politico nor the Atlantic would disclose how much API paid for the sponsorships.

A spokesman for API said: "Energy is our candidate, and that is a message we continue to share with all candidates as energy is a major issue for American voters. "We can continue to lead in providing low-cost energy to consumers while improving the environment. They are not mutually exclusive."

Many of the API-funded events have featured politicians and commentators who are in favor of expanding drilling for oil and gas. The Politico panel on Wednesday was more focused on attacking Donald Trump, with Inslee calling the Republican nominee "part of the Flat Earth Society" and Houser labeling the Republican position on climate change "insane."

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said API was trying to "fool the public".

"That's their business model and they will do all sorts of things to mislead and misinform people to push their own survival as a dirty, dangerous source of fuels," he said. "We wish that the media could do what they do with their own resources. The API is deceiving the public, acting like climate change doesn't exist at a time when we are seeing it's an amazing threat right now with the heatwaves and droughts and forest fires. They are pushing propaganda."

Karpinski, who will speak to the DNC on Thursday before Clinton's headline speech, said the Democratic platform was "the most aggressive on climate change ever seen". The platform proposes a swift transition to 100% renewable energy and a price on carbon, although Clinton has yet to fully embrace either of these goals.

"We have to make sure that [Clinton] wins and has a Senate that will work with her," Karpinski said.

"Donald Trump would be a disaster for the climate, we can't let that happen. We will either have a climate change champion or a climate change denier as president. The stakes are that high. I'd argue they've never been higher."



Earth to Democratic Leadership:
Americans Are Angry as Hell About
Big Money Corrupting Our Democracy

Robert Reich / Robert Reich's Facebook Page

(July 28, 2016) -- Excuse me while I vomit.

According to the New York Times, the moneyed interests have descended on Philadelphia big time. [See story below. -- EAW] Some big donors have even been granted time backstage or in the Clinton family box with former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.


"This is a good place to be," said former Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a Democrat now running for Congress, as he glided through Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton. "We must have set up five fund-raisers today. This is the bank."

As a protester walked with a sign denouncing big money outside the hotel, two stocky men inside were heard debating the merits of the different ambassadorships they hoped to get under Mrs. Clinton.

Even a low-ranking posting meant having "ambassador" on a child’s wedding invitation, the two agreed, and would be helpful in wrangling invitations to sit on corporate boards.

Earth to Democratic leaders: The Bernie campaign may be over and Donald Trump may be the devil incarnate, but the public is still angry as hell about big money corrupting our democracy. If Hillary is elected president in November and the moneyed interests aren’t brought to heel, she won’t be reelected.

What do you think?


After Lying Low, Deep-Pocketed
Clinton Donors Return to the Fore

Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick / The New York Times

PHILADELPHIA (July 28, 2016) -- In a luxury suite high above the convention floor, some of the Democratic Party’s most generous patrons sipped cocktails and caught up with old friends, tuning out Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Monday as he bashed Wall Street in an arena named after one of the country’s largest banks.

On Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee of a major party, a handful of drug companies and health insurers made sure to echo the theme, paying to sponsor an "Inspiring Women" panel featuring Democratic congresswomen.

And in the vaulted marble bar of the Ritz-Carlton downtown, wealthy givers congregated in force for cocktails and glad-handing as protesters thronged just outside to voice their unhappiness with Wall Street, big money in politics and Mrs. Clinton herself.

"This is a good place to be -- for a lot of reasons," said former Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a Democrat now running for Congress, as he glided through the room on Tuesday. "We must have set up five fund-raisers today. This is the bank."

After a wrenching yearlong nominating battle with searing debates over the influence of Wall Street and the ability of ordinary citizens to be heard over the din of dollars changing hands, the party’s moneyed elite returned to the fore this week, undeterred and mostly unabashed.

While protesters marched in the streets and blocked traffic, Democratic donors congregated in a few reserved hotels and shuttled between private receptions with A-list elected officials. If the talk onstage at the Wells Fargo Center was about reducing inequality and breaking down barriers, Center City Philadelphia evoked the world as it still often is: a stratified society with privilege and access determined by wealth.

"The Clinton people would always argue, ‘Well, there’s no connection between the money and the actions that we take,’ " said Jonathan Tasini, a liberal organizer and Sanders delegate from New York. "That’s what these cocktail parties and receptions are all about. It’s about access and whose phone calls get answered."

For many Clinton donors, particularly those from the financial sector, the convention is a time to shed what one called the "hypersensitivity" that had previously surrounded their appearance at Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raisers or at her political events, during a period when Mr. Sanders repeatedly attacked Mrs. Clinton’s connections to Wall Street and her six-figure speaking fees from financial institutions.

"I think we’re past that," said Alan Patricof, a longtime donor to Mrs. Clinton, when asked about the need to lie low during the primaries.

In Philadelphia, donors were handed preferred suites at the Ritz-Carlton and "Friends and Family" packages created for longtime Clinton hands -- some of them also longtime benefactors. Some were granted time backstage or in the Clinton family box with former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

Blackstone, the private equity giant, scheduled a reception at the Barnes Foundation on Thursday with its president, Hamilton E. James, one of the leading Wall Street contenders for an economic policy post in a future Clinton administration.

The Philadelphia convention offered other symbolic contrasts to the party’s last two gatherings, when President Obama sought, with mixed success, to restrict his party from raising money to pay for the conventions from lobbyists or political action funds. Those shackles were thrown off this year, waving a green flag to Washington’s influence industry. Lobbyists and corporate representatives flooded the city, where much of the Democratic Party’s elite -- and potential senior members of a future presidential administration -- had gathered.

The railway giant CSX brought in old railroad cars for a reception led by Rodney E. Slater, the former United States transportation secretary turned lobbyist, who also headlined a panel on transportation policy in a future Clinton administration. At the Loews Hotel bar on Tuesday night, old Clinton hands, some now working as lobbyists, caught up with Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a longtime family friend and one of the party’s most prolific fund-raisers.

At a private luncheon on Wednesday at El Vez, a Mexican restaurant, over a dozen Democratic governors mingled with representatives from a host of labor unions and companies, among them the Apollo Education Group, an operator of for-profit colleges that has faced a series of state and federal investigations into allegations of shady recruiting, deceptive advertising and questionable financial aid practices.

"It’s business as usual," said Libby Watson, who monitored lobbying events in Philadelphia on behalf of the Sunlight Foundation, a group devoted to government transparency.

The biggest players gathered at the Ritz-Carlton, where a line of sport utility vehicles and limousines deposited waves of men in suits but no ties and elegantly dressed women bearing expensive handbags.

At first-come-first-served seats near the bar, assistants huddled around lengthy spreadsheets, figuring out which donors were entitled to which passes to which events. Outside, a protester walked with a sign denouncing big money. Inside, two stocky men could be heard debating the merits of the different ambassadorships they hoped to earn under Mrs. Clinton. Even a low-ranking posting meant having "ambassador" on a child’s wedding invitation, the two agreed, and would be helpful in wrangling invitations to sit on corporate boards.

A few feet away, Mary Pat Bonner, a gatekeeper to many prominent liberal donors, chatted with her most important client, David Brock, the founder of a cluster of outside groups that has raised millions of dollars to help elect Mrs. Clinton.

The longtime Clinton friend and fund-raiser Maureen White strode through the lobby, just missing Rajiv K. Fernando, the Chicago securities trader and Clinton donor, who resigned his appointment to a sensitive intelligence advisory board after questions were raised about his qualifications. Nearby were Heather Podesta, the Democratic lobbyist and Clinton fund-raiser, and Philip D. Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany, now running for governor of New Jersey.

Occasionally, as bellhops leapt to open the lobby doors for another guest, the chants of protesters outside could be dimly heard.

John Graham, a New Jersey insurance executive and Clinton backer, said that after seeing the demonstrators outside the hotel, he had taken his daughter for a walk to meet some of them.

"It’s a little awkward, because guys like me are in here," Mr. Graham said. "And we need to do something for the young people who are out there."

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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