Montana Senator Jon Tester Hobnobs With Green Energy Activist Who Helped Kill Keystone Pipeline

Tester said pipeline would have ensured 'energy independence,' created 'big benefits for our state'

Jon Tester (Getty Images)
March 15, 2023

Montana senator Jon Tester, who mourned the death of the Keystone XL pipeline and the hundreds of rural jobs it would have created, held a big-ticket Silicon Valley fundraiser with a green energy activist who helped kill the pipeline.

Tester's Monday night Silicon Valley soirée—which cost up to $6,600 to attend—counted Natural Resources Defense Council board member Nicole Lederer as a sponsor. The council repeatedly sued the Trump administration to delay the Keystone pipeline project until President Joe Biden canceled it within days of taking office in January 2021. The council's successful "takedown" of Keystone, its website says, "will go down as one of this generation's most monumental environmental victories." Lederer also personally trashed the project, writing in a Huffington Post column that Keystone "is against the best interest of our country" and would create "very few jobs."

Tester's willingness to rub elbows with Lederer contradicts the Democrat's public support for the pipeline, which would have created hundreds of construction jobs in Big Sky Country—jobs that Tester himself said "would have yielded big benefits for our state." And while Tester pledged to "keep fighting to create jobs in rural Montana" after the pipeline was killed, the Natural Resources Defense Council openly touts its work to kill oil and gas extraction in Montana and other northwestern states. That industry supports more than 29,000 Montana jobs, according to the Montana Petroleum Association.

The Tester campaign did not return a request for comment. Lederer, who is based in Palo Alto, Calif., and serves as chair of an environmental nonprofit that is a Natural Resources Defense Council partner, contributed more than $11,000 to Tester's campaign prior to the Monday fundraiser, campaign finance records show. Lederer's nonprofit said it was not involved with the fundraiser "in any way, shape, or form" and did not comment further.

Lederer was far from the only politically controversial attendee at the posh Palo Alto event. A partner at Silicon Valley Bank's legal firm also sponsored the fundraiser, which took place just three days after the bank collapsed in the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history. Tester, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, has faced criticism from liberals for his vote for a 2018 bill that cut regulations for mid-sized banks like Silicon Valley Bank. Tester has not addressed the vote.

Tester's Silicon Valley fundraiser also comes days after the Washington Free Beacon found that the Democrat has spent more than a million dollars at swanky restaurants, including one Washington, D.C., establishment that boasts of its "ambiance and luxury" and status as a meeting place for "senators, congressmen, celebrities, and powerbrokers." Tester, who bills himself as a "tireless defender of rural America," insisted in 2012 he would rather eat meat from his Montana farm than go out to dinner. "At the end of the long day, I am happier not going out [to eat]," Tester said. "Taking meat with us is just something that we do. We like our own meat."

Tester, who launched his 2024 reelection bid last month, is considered a top target for Senate Republicans as they try to earn a majority in the upper chamber. The party performed well in statewide Montana races in 2020, with Republicans Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte cruising to double-digit wins in their respective campaigns for senator and governor.