Politics

Clinton’s Top Financial Backers Include Big Fossil Fuel Investors

Donors complicate Clinton campaign pushback against environmentalist criticism

Hillary Clinton
AP

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the largest Super PAC supporting it have received millions of dollars from high-dollar investors in fossil fuel companies, public records show, complicating her efforts to push back against Democratic rival Bernie Sanders’ attempts to tie her to the industry.

Clinton reacted angrily when a Greenpeace volunteer at a recent campaign stop quizzed her on the fossil fuel industry’s support for her campaign.

"I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I'm sick of it!" Clinton said.

Subsequent coverage of the minor controversy has focused on direct contributions to her campaign from employees of oil and gas companies. Clinton has received about six times as much money from those individuals as Sanders has.

However, this disparity only tells part of the story. In addition to employees of the industry, investors in it have written seven-figure checks to the Hillary Victory Fund, Clinton’s joint fundraising committee, and Priorities USA Action, a deep-pocketed Super PAC backing her candidacy.

Priorities USA has spent millions this cycle supporting Clinton’s candidacy and attacking Republican presidential contenders. The Hillary Victory Fund has disbursed nearly $5 million to the Clinton campaign.

Financier Donald Sussman has donated $2.5 million to Priorities and another $343,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund. He also sits on the board of the Center for American Progress alongside Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, funds managed by Sussman’s hedge fund management firm, Paloma Partners Management, has positions in at least 85 companies involved in the fossil fuel industry.

The companies include oil and gas exploration giants BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Occidental, and ConocoPhillips, and coal companies such as Peabody Energy and SunCoke Energy.

They also include a number of offshore drilling companies, oil refiners, oilfield service companies, electrical utilities, and pipeline manufacturers—most notably TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline.

Paloma also maintains a large stake—more than 188,000 shares—in American International Group (AIG). Paloma received $200 million from the AIG’s $87 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008.

Another high profile Clinton backer, billionaire financier George Soros, is also invested in some fossil fuel firms.

According to a recent SEC filing, his Soros Fund Management has positions in oil and gas exploration firm Energen, refiner Marathon Petroleum, utility Dynegy, pipeline companies Kinder Morgan and Columbia Pipeline Group, transportation fuel company Valero, and oilfield service firms Hercules Offshore and Key Energy Services.

Soros has donated $7 million to Priorities USA and $343,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund.

His and Sussman’s contributions to groups supporting Clinton came as the anti-fossil fuel left increasingly trained its sights on investors in fossil fuel companies, not just the companies themselves.

A leading proponent of fossil fuel "divestment," the group 350.org, has pushed for Democratic presidential candidates to swear off money from the fossil fuel industry. A 350.org petition last year asked candidates to "neither solicit nor accept campaign contributions from any oil, gas, or coal company."

Candidates themselves cannot accept donations from corporations, which must instead donate to political action committees.

While oil and gas companies themselves are donating more to Republican candidates for president, Sussman and Soros show that fossil fuel investors—the types of firms targeted by 350 and other divestment supporters—are boosting Clinton’s candidacy.