Michelle Nunn’s Keystone problem

Brandon Howell Contributor, Georgia Tipsheet
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Michelle Nunn’s bid to turn Georgia blue generated some headlines this week when the Senate hopeful came out in favor of building the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“I have a lot of friends who have different perspectives on Keystone,” she told a rare public gathering of supporters. “We need to continue to focus on green energy and finding sustainable sources of energy, but I do believe we should move forward with Keystone.”

The immediate takeaway is that Nunn managed to nod her head to the liberal Democratic base while simultaneously continuing the centrist posture that’s dictated her campaign.

However, dotting i’s and crossing t’s shows a much more serious double-step at work.

Last month Nunn went wheels-up to San Francisco for a swanky fundraiser hosted by Susie Tompkins Buell. The confab benefitted her Peach State effort and other 2014 Democratic Senate hopefuls.

You may recognize Buell’s name – she’s an outspoken opponent of Keystone.

Some time ago she helped organize and lead a protest against the pipeline. Buell ripped President Obama at the event, saying, “I don’t know where he stands on anything.” A report in January 2012 noted that her coffers were off-limits for the president’s fundraising swing through California, due to environmental issues.

“I would love to just write my big check, or have a high-dollar dinner here,” Buell said. “I can’t.”

So, why would she then turn around and pony up to a red state Democrat running as a pro-Keystone centrist, if said Democrat were in fact a pro-Keystone centrist?

That kind of money trail undermines Nunn’s credibility and draws into serious question what she’s telling donors in private compared to Georgia voters publicly, while she’s dependent on them for election.

The day before she launched her Senate bid in July of last year, Harry Reid told an Organizing for Action conference “the strength of the president is in the mighty Senate,” calling for support of the party’s 2014 candidates, and directly citing Nunn, saying “she’s really good.”

Just a month ago he said “climate change is the worst problem facing the world today” before reaffirming his opposition to Keystone.

That’s to say nothing of the deluge of problems facing Nunn in a state like Georgia when someone like Harry Reid says you’re essential to accomplishing his agenda. It didn’t stop her from taking a $10,000 donation from his Searchlight Leadership Fund, though.

A money trail that includes Harry Reid and a donor so anti-Keystone she wouldn’t even pony up for Obama makes for some tough sailing in a state like Georgia.

It’s worse, though. Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Howard Dean, and Jane Fonda have all boosted Nunn’s campaign coffers.

That’s the same Bloomberg who encouraged donors to quit donating to Democrats who failed to espouse his gun control agenda.

Does that mean he’s expecting some reciprocity from Nunn?

The trend is troubling, but really just serves as a reminder that the she’d be no less likely to kowtow to national Democratic forces than any other candidate they’ve put up in red states this year.

Nunn says she supports construction of Keystone, but Harry Reid is counting on her pulling an upset as one avenue to keeping the majority leader’s gavel. The pipeline, or any other real path to energy independence, is a nonstarter so long as he’s in power.

So, by extension, Michelle Nunn is part of the problem, and her Keystone double-step again illustrates that.

She’ll use their donations to cast daylight between them, but it’s a Republican year, and Georgia voters aren’t going to be fooled. 

Brandon Howell is an account director at Hynes Communications and a contributor to the Peach State political blog Georgia Tipsheet. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonDHowell.