POLITICS

Nancy Pelosi Won't Say Climate Panel Members Can't Take Fossil Fuel Donations

Democrats on the committee have taken nearly $200,000 from the industry.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not forbid members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to take donations from fossil fuel companies, she revealed in a Rolling Stone interview published Thursday.

“I don’t think any of them have,” the California Democrat told the magazine.

She had it wrong, though: The committee’s nine Democratic members took a combined $198,000 from fossil fuel industry political action committees connected to oil, gas, mining and utilities in the 2018 midterm elections, as HuffPost previously reported. The bulk of that sum, $117,000, went to Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), making up 6 percent of all his contributions, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

The committee, created after the Democratic Party won a majority in the House of Representatives last year, aims to promote policies to combat climate change. No Republicans have opted to serve on it. Activists believe members should refuse fossil fuel money as a sign of their independence from the industry that has attempted to stall climate action while contributing greatly to the problem.

“This is about [finding] people who care very much about the issue and know very much about the issue,” Pelosi said of the panel. 

Some committee members have made efforts to distance themselves from fossil fuel companies. Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) signed a pledge promising not to take money from those or any corporate PACs, with others planning to follow suit. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) divested up to $100,000 worth of shares of a mutual fund with fossil fuel utility holdings in January after a watchdog group called her out.

“We’re thinking big on this,” Pelosi said. “We’re not holding [it against] somebody if she got a utility contribution within her lifetime.”

She added: “I mean, my daughter is really on everybody’s case about taking contributions, so I know the program. But I just want the best possible people.”

According to Castor, the committee will work “in the spirit of the Green New Deal,” progressive Democrats’ proposal to move to 100 percent renewable energy over a decade with a jobs guarantee. 

CLARIFICATION: Language has been updated to specify the origins of the PAC donations in greater detail.

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