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Environmentalists Don't Know What To Do About Obama's Position On Keystone XL

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BARACK OBAMA KEYSTONE
Senator Barack Obama speaks at a charity event in New York, Monday, Dec. 4, 2006. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) | AP

President Obama may approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline later this year, but that hasn't stopped him from accepting money from activists looking to stop its construction. Next month he'll be hosting a fundraiser at the home of Tom Steyer, the hedge fund manager turned environmentalist who's been one of the pipeline's most outspoken opponents.

To make matters even more uncomfortable, the progressive group CREDO Action has organized an anti-Keystone demonstration with environmental advocacy groups 350.org and the Sierra Club, with an estimated 1,000 protesters signed up to turn out in San Francisco at a separate Obama fundraiser that day for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"The president says he wants to take meaningful action on climate change and this is the first and biggest decision he's going to make," Becky Bond, CREDO's political director, told HuffPost when the protest was first announced last week.

Obama's scheduled fundraisers in San Francisco include a $5,000-a-head cocktail hour at Steyer's home in Pacific Heights, as well as a $32,500-a head dinner at the home of of Ann and Gordon Getty. Environmental activists have signaled they'll concentrate on getting folks to the Gettys'. To protest at both fundraisers, they say, would be too logistically challenging.

"No doubt Tom Steyer will use his fundraiser to tell the president about his deep opposition to Keystone XL," said Bond. "Once again, money talks. The rest of us need to talk more loudly since we won't be handing out $32,000 checks." She added many of the expected protesters supported Obama's campaign, and they intend "to make sure our voices are also heard."

Steyer, meanwhile, maintains he is proud to host the president.

His decision to hold the DCCC fundraiser relates to his "long-time support of Nancy Pelosi," the House minority leader, according to Steyer spokesman Chris Lehane. "Tom is honored to be hosting the President at such an event to support Congressional Democrats," Lehane said in an email, his position on Keystone notwithstanding.

Steyer has been a particularly vocal opponent of Keystone in recent weeks, joining forces with a handful of young Massachusetts advocates to pressure Rep. Steve Lynch (D-Mass.) -- who's running against Rep. Edward Markey for the open Senate seat in Masschusetts -- to relinquish his support for the pipeline. To have 1,000 Keystone activists show up outside his house would be, well, awkward.

 
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