Wiener’s Green New Deal Pledge Conflicts with his Campaign Contributors
GUEST POST BY: IAN FIRSTENBERG
As Election Day nears, candidates are solidifying policy proposals, hoping to bolster their platforms; for Scott Wiener, this came in the form of a recent pledge to support the Green New Deal. Originally proposed by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), it adopts the structure of the 1930’s New Deal and applies those principles to climate change addressment, clean energy jobs and fossil fuel divestment.
Wiener authored an op-ed on February 25 decrying the negative effects of the fossil fuel industry and claimed, “The oil and gas industry, more than any other, brought these expensive climate damages to our doorstep, and have left California taxpayers with the bill.”
The State Senator’s 2016 campaign received multiple donations from high ranking employees within the energy industry. Among the contributors listed was a high ranking employee of Energy Experts International, an international management consulting firm whose client list includes energy giants like Shell, Chevron and PG&E.
Another contributor was the co-founder and CEO of First Energy Finance, which was ranked among the top 10 of the country’s largest polluters, according to a 2017 UMASS-Amherst report. Wiener also received contributions from a former Solar City employee. The company settled a $29.5 million false claims allegation in 2017 as well as being involved in numerous other scandals.
This trend has continued under Wiener’s current campaign. According to filings with the Secretary of State, his campaign committee received two $2,000 contributions from Chevron, including a $250 contribution from a member of their legal counsel. The filings also indicate that he received two $4,400 contributions from Southern California Edison and three contributions of at least $1,500 from Texas based energy company Calpine Corporation. His campaign committee has received an estimated total of $23,500 in campaign contributions from energy or fossil fuel companies.
Wiener has the backing of an independent expenditure (IE), which is fairly common in local races and often attracts bi-partisan wealth in a variety of races. Candidates cannot dictate who does and does not support them, as indicated by George Hume’s (the Basic American Food heir) support of Chesa Boudin through IE during the DA race. However, in the effort of transparency, it bares mentioning that Wiener’s re-election IE has received roughly $170,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
Wiener’s staff, when reached for comment, responded with the qualification that we print the quote in its entirety.
“I’m a strong supporter of the Green New Deal and recently took the no fossil fuel money pledge. I’ve never taken oil money, and I vote against the oil industry 100% of the time. I have one of the strongest environmental records in the Senate, with a lifetime 97% rating from the League of Conservation Voters and 94% from Sierra Club. For anyone wondering how utilities like PG&E feel about me, I encourage them to note how PG&E and other utilities consistently oppose my energy legislation, including: my aggressive solar and energy storage legislation, my legislation to hold PG&E and other utilities accountable for power shut-offs, and my legislation to turn PG&E into a publicly owned utility,” he said.
Wiener’s opponent, 25 year-old Mexican Indigenous organizer and worker Jackie Fielder, is a staunch opponent of the fossil fuel industry and its influence in politics. She has worked for half a decade to push back against the industry’s control of finance and destruction of Indigenous lands.
“From day one of my campaign,” says Fielder, “I pledged not to accept contributions from the fossil fuel industry, their lobbyists, or their executives. We need an independent leader to take on the climate crisis and hold polluters accountable – not an incumbent who signs pledges with one hand while accepting donations with the other.”
Along with being an honest supporter of the Green New Deal, Fielder has criticized Sacramento lawmakers for being beholden to large real estate and financial institutions. She has not accepted any contributions from large the California Association of Realtors or any behemoth financial corporations.
According to those same filings, Wiener’s campaign committee has received over $110,000 from financial service employees like John Pasquesi, the co-founder of Otter Capital and current chairman of the board for Arch Capital, who donated $4,400. Other financial industry contributors include Kevin Harvey, a wealthy investor and vineyard owner whose company was ordered to pay $3.7 million for bulldozing a Mendocino County wetland.
Among the other contribution clusters, Wiener received over $15,000 from charter school packs or high-ranking employees; this is something Fielder has long decried and criticized in a recent interview with BAS.
“We need someone in the state capital who is not going to accept money from charter schools and the current state senator was awarded legislator of the year by the Charter School Association in 2018. I am of the belief that public education should remain a public good and not a private good for profit margins,” Fielder said.