Green New Deal Author Sen. Ed Markey Broke ‘No Fossil Fuel Money’ Pledge

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (L) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) (R) hug each other
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), one of the primary authors of the Green New Deal, took thousands of dollars from oil and gas lobbyists after publicly pledging to spurn “their dirty money.”

In December, Markey announced he was taking the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign. The pledge, a byproduct of the liberal group Oil Change USA, has become an environmental litmus test for Democratic candidates and elected officials. A majority of Democratic presidential candidates have taken the pledge, along with Markey’s fellow Green New Deal author, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

By signing, Markey promised to refuse campaign donations totaling more than $200 from executives, PACs, and lobbyists representing companies “whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”

In a video to accompany his announcement, Markey claimed the planet “is running a fever” and the only prescription is “to get fossil fuel money out of politics.”

“That’s the only way that we’re going to send a message that we’re putting the health of the planet, the health of families, over the health of profits of big polluting companies in our country,” the senator said as he signed the pledge. “I don’t need their dirty money, if they’re going to be dirtying up the world.”

“Just a guarantee that we’re going to have a fight to save the planet and the health of every family in the country,” he added while holding up the signed document for view.

Despite Markey’s strong denunciation of “dirty money,” the senator continued to accept contributions from registered oil and gas lobbyists throughout the first half of 2019. In fact, the majority of the contributions poured into Markey’s campaign after the Green New Deal was introduced in February.

Campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show Markey accepted more than $10,000 from lobbyists on the payroll of international oil and gas conglomerates.

Steve Elmendorf, who served as deputy campaign manager for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, donated $2,800—the maximum allowed by FEC guidelines—to Markey on March 29. The former Kerry aide is the co-founder of Subject Matter, a top Washington, D.C. “advocacy agency” that generated more than $9 million in lobbying income last year.

In August 2018, Elemendorf registered as a lobbyist for BP, the British multinational responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Throughout the end of March, BP has paid Elmendorf’s firm $140,000 to work on “energy development,” trade, and “renewable fuels,” according to lobbying disclosure forms. Elmendorf also lobbies Congress on behalf of Resolution Copper, which has drawn heat from environmental activists over its plans to mine for copper in Arizona.

In the past, Markey has been noted by liberal news outlets as one of “Capitol Hill’s toughest BP critics.” Elmendorf’s donation came only two weeks after BP’s CEO urged oil industry leaders to work on “improving the dialogue” with proponents of the Green New Deal.

The senator has further taken thousands from lobbyists working on behalf of Chevron.

David Castagnetti, a lobbyist at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, donated $2,100 on March 24 to Markey. Another alumni of the Kerry campaign, Castagnetti has been registered to lobby for Chevron since Sept. 2016. Two other lobbyists from Castagnetti’s firm that are also registered to represent Chevron donated $500 a piece to Markey’s reelection on March 8 and March 18, respectively.

Castagenetti’s firm has been paid a total of $460,000 by Chevron throughout March 2019 to “monitor bills and regulations related to the oil and gas industry.”  

Another Chevron lobbyist, Brian Arthur Pomper, donated $2,000 to Markey’s campaign on March 28. Pomper, a former an international trade counsel for the Senate finance committee, is a partner at Akin Gump, the largest lobbying firm by revenue in the United States. He has been registered to lobby on Chevron’s behalf since April 2010, earning Akin Gump 2.32 million.

Apart from BP and Chevron, Markey has taken money from individuals tied to smaller, but still influential, fossil fuel companies.

Susan Brophy, a managing director at the Glover Park Group, contributed $2,500 on March 29. Lobbying disclosures detail that Brophy has been registered to represent YPF S.A., one of Argentina’s leading petroleum producers, since Oct. 2017. Brophy attempted to donate a further $700 on March 31, but that donation was refunded, likely because it would have hit up against campaign finance limits.

Markey accepted the donations directly in violation of the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. The contributions all came at a time when Markey was heavily involved in championing the Green New Deal. The donations also came as Markey and his fellow Senate Democrats were interceding in a federal lawsuit by two California cities against five oil companies, including BP and Chevron, over climate change.

Oil Change USA did not respond to requests for comment by press time. In the past, however, the organization has called out individuals found to be in contravention of the pledge and has urged them to return the donations.

Markey’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 


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