Democratic senators on the committee charged with holding confirmation hearings on former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination to be secretary of state have taken more than $9.3 million from environmental groups.
Tillerson is set to testify before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Wednesday, and will likely be grilled by Democratic lawmakers on his ties to Russia, his stance on global warming and possibly even Exxon’s legal battle against states attorneys generals (AGs).
Foreign relations committee Democrats have expressed concerns about Tillerson becoming the U.S.’s top diplomat over his ties to Russia, his oil industry work and stance on global warming. But those same Democrats have taken money from anti-oil activists.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), NextGen Climate Action (NextGen) and Environment America (EA) gave more than $9.3 million — in the form of individual campaign donations and independent expenditures — to eight of the nine Democratic lawmakers on the committee.
In total, LCV, NextGen and EA gave eight of the nine foreign relations committee Democrats $9,341,329 through individual donations and super PACs, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation examination of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics..
All three of these activist groups endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election and opposed President-elect Donald Trump, and now they are opposing Tillerson as Trump’s pick to head the State Department.
These activists are opposed to using fossil fuels, like oil, to generate energy. Exxon is the world’s largest oil company. They’ve also called on government prosecutors to investigate Exxon for allegedly trying to cover up global warming science.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has gotten more than $4.3 million from environmentalists since 2008 — the most of any Democrat on the foreign relations committee. That includes more than $1.6 million in direct donations and independent expenditures from LCV.
NextGen spent $3.1 million on ads and other independent expenditures against Shaheen’s 2014 election cycle opponent, former GOP Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
Shaheen said she won’t support any Trump nominee “who would undermine NATO, our international agreements to combat climate change, or our efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tim Kaine of Virginia have each gotten about $2.2 million from environmentalists since 2008 in the form of campaign donations and independent expenditures.
“We cannot allow oil to replace diplomacy as the currency of the State Department,” Markey said of Tillerson’s nomination.
Democrats’ main criticisms of Tillerson, however, center on his ties to Russia. But Democrats have also voiced concerns about Tillerson’s oil industry career and his stance on global warming, reflecting criticisms made by environmentalists backing their political campaigns.
Kaine even mentioned reports by liberal journalists alleging Exxon “knew” about the dangers of global warming for decades, but funded right-wing groups critical of government regulations on global warming.
“Further, the documented efforts by ExxonMobil to fund organizations denying climate science during Tillerson’s tenure at the company deserve critical attention as Virginia grapples with sea level rise in Hampton Roads and other climate driven issues,” Kaine said in a statement.
NextGen, which was founded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, admitted in September that some of his state chapters acknowledged to backing investigations by Democratic states attorneys general into Exxon’s supposed global warming cover-up.
NextGen and EA signed onto an open letter supporting Democratic AGs, led by New York, in investigating Exxon’s stance on global warming — a probe that’s ensnared dozens of conservative groups and been called an attack on free speech.
LCV created an online petition calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Exxon “for willfully misleading the public about the catastrophic effects of climate change.” EA has a similar petition asking the DOJ “to investigate ExxonMobil for misleading the public for decades.”
Tillerson said he believes humans can cause global warming, but sees it as an “engineering problem” and has questioned the accuracy of climate models. While CEO, Exxon has supported a carbon tax and Tillerson supported the United Nations Paris climate deal.
Tillerson’s past statements on global warming, however, weren’t enough to convince foreign relations committee Democrats to support him.
“Finally, while Mr. Tillerson has recently made statements in support of the Paris Agreement and a carbon tax, Exxon Mobil has a questionable record on this topic, to say the least,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, who has gotted $77,470 from LCV since 2008.
“With an oil industry executive at the helm of U.S. climate policy, polluters will be rewarded and all the progress the Obama Administration has made to control global greenhouse gases will be destroyed,” echoed Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who’s gotten $511,369 from LCV and EA.
Republicans have largely lined up behind Tillerson’s nomination, with only a couple of GOP lawmakers expressing any concern.
Here is a breakdown of how much support each Democratic foreign relations committee member got from EA, LCV and NextGen:
- NH Sen. Jeanne Shaheen — $4.3 million
- VA Sen. Tim Kaine — $2.2 million
- MA Sen. Ed Markey — $2.2 million
- CT Sen. Chris Murphy — $511,369
- NM Tom Udall — $77,470
- DE Sen. Chris Coons — $8,950
- NJ Sen. Bob Menendez — $2,000
- MD Sen. Ben Cardin — $1,000
(Data goes back to 2008, but mostly includes 2012 and 2014 election cycle spending. Election spending includes donations and independent expenditures by PACs.)
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