Hillary Clinton’s Connections to the Oil and Gas Industry

by Jesse Coleman

Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Super PAC supporting her have received more than $6.9 million from the fossil fuel industry.

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Photo by brwn_yd_grl / Flickr. Creative Commons.

Last updated April 21, 2016.

For questions or media inquiries about this research, please contact Perry Wheeler, perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been backed by the fossil fuel industry in a number of ways.

First, there are the direct contributions from people working for fossil fuel companies to Clinton’s campaign committee. According to the most recent filings, the committee has received $309,101 (as of April 11, 2016; source: Center for Responsive Politics for oil and gas and coal) from such donors.

Next are the fossil fuel lobbyists, many of whom have also bundled contributions. These donations also flow to Clinton’s campaign committee. Greenpeace has tracked $2,650,580 in bundled and direct donations from lobbyists currently registered as lobbying for the fossil fuel industry.

Last are contributions from fossil fuel interests to Super PACs supporting Hillary Clinton. Greenpeace has found $4,000,000 in donations from large donors connected to the fossil fuel industry to Priorities Action USA, a Super PAC supporting Secretary Clinton’s campaign.

Greenpeace has asked Hillary Clinton and all candidates to sign our pledge to fix democracy, which defines rejecting money from fossil fuel interests in this way:

By “fossil fuel interests” we mean companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing and sale of coal, oil or gas. The pledge means that a candidate’s campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions from company PACs, registered lobbyists that work on behalf of the company, or top executives.

All told, the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 has received more than $6.9 million from lobbyists, bundlers, and large donors connected to the fossil fuel industry.

Number of oil, gas and coal industry lobbyists that have made direct contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign: 65

  • 60 registered oil, coal and gas lobbyists have personally given $142,640 to the Clinton campaign.
  • Of those 60, 13 are bundlers.
  • 13 lobbyists have bundled $2,502,740 in contributions to the Clinton campaign.
  • 48 lobbyists have contributed the maximum allowed ($2,700).

This includes:

  • Lobbyists who have reported lobbying for the oil and gas industry – both in-house company lobbyists and hired lobbyists from “K-Street firms.”

This does not include:

  • Industry executives who are not registered as lobbyists.
  • Other employees of the oil and gas industry.
  • Board members.
  • Corporate PAC contributions.
  • Contributions by major investors.
  • Donations to Super PACS or non-profit groups.
  • Contributions made by trade associations to Super PACs.

Examples:

  • Ben Klein (Heather Podesta and Associates) lobbied on behalf of Oxbow Carbon on petcoke and other issues. Petcoke is a byproduct of refining. Communities in Detroit and Chicago have complained about piles of petcoke blowing into the communityBill Koch (the estranged brother of Charles and David) owns controlling interest of Oxbow. Klein also lobbied on restrictions of ivory imports for Oxbow.
  • Fracking company and gas industry trade association lobbyists have also contributed to Clinton’s campaign, including Former Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX), who lobbied for the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, and Martin Durbin of the American Natural Gas Association (now merged and part of the American Petroleum Institute – API), the nephew of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Another donor is Elizabeth Gore, a lobbyist for WPX energy (fracking). A lobbyist for FTI Consulting, creator of an industry front group called Energy In Depth, also contributed to Clinton’s campaign. Although Clinton has said she would require FERC to consider climate change before granting any new gas pipeline permits, she recently told activists she would not ban fracking as president, and has a pro-fracking track record which has been well-documented by numerous groups, including pro-Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record.
  • Mary Streett, a lobbyist for BP, gave Clinton’s campaign the maximum allowable amount ($2700). Her sister, Stephanie S. Streett, is the Executive Director of the William J. Clinton Foundation and former executive director of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation (Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, 990 report 2013). The Podesta Group (Tony Podesta) also lobbied for BP, on issues including the Gulf of Mexico spill response and recovery.
  • While Secretary of State, Clinton pushed fracking in countries around the world, through the department’s Global Shale Gas Initiative. According to Grist, after the Bulgarian government signed a five-year deal with Chevron, major public protests led the Bulgarian parliament to pass a fracking moratorium. Clinton traveled to Bulgaria and then dispatched her special envoy for energy in Eurasia, Richard Morningstar, to push back against the fracking bans, which were eventually overturned.
  • Clinton’s State Department played a major role in negotiating a bilateral oil agreement with Mexico. Her former special envoy for international energy affairs, David Goldwyn, has donated the maximum allowable amount to the campaign ($2700). Although neither he nor his firm (Goldwyn International Strategies LLC) report lobbying during 2015-2016, since leaving the State Department Goldwyn has consulted for companies wishing to profit from Mexico’s decision to allow private oil services contractors into the country in order to expand PEMEX’s ability to produce shale oil and tap deep offshore reserves.
  • David Leiter (ML Strategies lobbyist for Exxon and a Clinton bundler), the former Senate chief of staff to John Kerry, is also a lobbyist for Burisma Holdings, a private Ukrainian natural gas and uranium mining company with many connections to the Democratic Party. Biden’s son Hunter joined Burisma’s board in 2014, right before Leiter was hired to lobby members about the role of the company in Ukraine (arguing for its role in helping Ukraine be independent of Russia). Another board member, Devon Archer, is a Clinton donor (2700). FTI’s Lawrence Pacheco does communications for Burisma. Burisma is owned by a Cypriot holding firm, Brociti Investments Ltd, which is controlled by Nikolai Zlochevskyi, a former Ukrainian government minister. 
  • Although Clinton has said she supports an investigation into Exxon’s early concealment of what it knew about the risks of climate change and subsequent financing of climate denier front groups, her campaign has taken contributions from at least seven lobbyists working for Exxon, including one in-house lobbyist — Theresa Fariello — who has bundled and additional $21,200 for the campaign.
  • Hess lobbyists from Forbes-Tate (Daniel Tate, Jeffrey Forbes, George Cooper and Rachel Miller) all gave maximum allowable contributions to Clinton’s campaign. The firm lobbied on behalf of the Hess Corporation, on crude by rail and crude exports. Hess owns rail cars that came off the tracks and caught fire after a BNSF train derailed in North Dakota in early May 2015. Hess is the third-largest oil producer in North Dakota. Lynn Helms, a former Hess executive served as ND’s top oil and gas regulator at the Department of Mineral Resources between 2005 and 2013. When Clinton came out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, she started talking about how fixing train tracks would create jobs. In December 2015, a couple of months after Clinton announced she opposed Keystone XL, and just over a month after Obama rejected the pipeline down, Warren Buffett — who owns BNSF — endorsed Clinton. Buffett is also a big oil investor (e.g. Phillips 66).
  • Companies invested in LNG projects with lobbyists that have given to Clinton’s campaign include Freeport LNG (Elizabeth Gore – Brownstein Hyatt, $500); LNG Allies (Michael Smith – Cornerstone Gov. Affairs – 2700 and a bundler of $59,400); Dominion Resources (Tom Lawler – Lawler Strategies, 2700); Oregon LNG (Robert van Heuvelen VH Strategies – 2700). Exxon also has LNG projects. Cheniere Energy’s Ankit Desai not only gave the maximum allowed, but also bundled $140,400 for the campaign. Another donor ($2700) to Clinton’s campaign is Heather Zichal, Obama’s former energy advisor, who joined the board of Cheniere (LNG export company) after leaving the administration.
  • Former Rep. Richard (“Dick”) Gephardt’s firm lobbies for Peabody Energy (coal), Prairie State (coal-fired power plant and adjacent mine), Ameren Services Co. Gephardt and his wife, son and daughter Chrissy all contributed the maximum allowed to Clinton’s campaign (Dick is the only fossil fuel lobbyist in the family). Gephardt, a Democratic Party super delegate, has pledged to support Clinton. In February, the DNC rolled back its previous commitment to not take any contributions from federally registered lobbyists. Clinton’s campaign has also received contributions from lobbyists representing big mining companies — Westmoreland Coal, Arch Coal and Rio Tinto.

Other points relevant to lobbyist contributions:

During the New Hampshire democratic debate, Clinton said donations are not evidence of favors. But in 2008, she suggested the contributions Obama took from the industry were evidence of a quid pro quo.

In April 2008, Clinton’s campaign aired a television ad portraying Obama’s support for a 2005 energy bill as a quid pro quo for campaign donations. The ad said Obama had “accepted $200,000 from executives and employees of oil companies,” while criticizing him for voting “for the Bush-Cheney energy bill that that put $6 billion in the pocket of big oil.”

The clear message of this ad: Obama backed the bill as a favor to donors.

It’s worth noting that Obama didn’t take any money from lobbyists or PACs in 2008 and pledged to not take contributions from lobbyists in 2012, too, and gave some donations back.

While mostly true, critics did point out after the 2012 campaign that Obama did take some K Street money.

For more information:

Note: Additional information and data for campaign contributions can be retrieved directly from The Center for Responsive Politics or the Federal Elections Commission. Lobbying disclosure reports are available on the U.S. Senate web site: http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=selectFields&reset=1

Jesse Coleman

By Jesse Coleman

Jesse Coleman is a researcher with the Greenpeace Investigations team. His focus is on front groups, fracking, and the oil and gas industry. Jesse's work has been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Colbert Report, Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, and NPR.

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