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Top Democrats launch investigation into Trump’s brazen $1 billion speech to oil executives | Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse calls bold demand ‘definition of corruption’ in inquiry into April Mar-a-Lago meeting

Donald Trump’s brazen offer to 20 fossil fuel industry leaders for $1 billion to help his presidential campaign in exchange for promises of lucrative tax and regulatory favors is the ‘definition of corruption,’ said a prominent Democrat investigating the matter.

“It certainly meets the definition of corruption as the Founding Fathers would have used that term,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said in an interview about Trump’s bold $1 billion demand for big checks to top officials. fossil fuel industry leaders, which took place in April during his March speech. a Lago club.

Whitehouse added: “The quid pro quo – so called – is so obvious… I can’t think of anything that could match that, either in terms of the size of the bribe demanded or the audacity of the links. »

Whitehouse and fellow Democrat Ron Wyden have launched a joint investigation, as chairs of the Senate Budget and Finance committees respectively, into Trump’s quid pro quo fundraising, which already appears to have helped generate tens of millions in checks for a Trump. Super Pac of oil and gas leaders at a May 22 event in Houston.

Both senators wrote eight major oil company executives and the head of the industry’s lobbying group for details about the Mar-a-Lago meeting, as did Rep. Jamie Raskin, the committee’s top Democrat of Oversight and Accountability, which began a parallel investigation into the pay-to-play schemes that Trump touted to big oil executives.

Amplifying those concerns, former Federal Election Commission general counsel Larry Noble said Trump’s unusually aggressive financial rhetoric “violates the letter and spirit” of campaign finance laws, and a Republican consultant Seasoned called it “blatantly pay to play.”

In a separate investigation into fossil fuels, Raskin and Whitehouse released a joint report in April on big oil companies’ long-running disinformation campaigns aimed at downplaying the enormous threats posed by global warming, which Trump has falsely characterized as ” hoax,” and last week urged the Justice Department to investigate Big Oil’s tactics to deceive the public.

Trump can boast that he has long rejected scientific evidence on the links between fossil fuel use and climate change: he has advanced a litany of false climate claims, including that wind turbines cause cancer and that electric cars are “bad” for the environment, while promising to end tax breaks for electric vehicles if he wins this fall.

Additionally, in a major rebuke to environmental advocates and international efforts to curb global warming, Trump announced in 2017 that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris agreement aimed at limiting climate change, a highly criticized decision that Joe Biden reversed.

Trump’s mantra of “drill, baby, drill” and his deep animosity toward alternative energy sources have been part of his fundraising campaigns with oil and gas tycoons, raising alarms about the dangers of another Trump presidency.

“The entirety of … Trump, the fossil fuel industry and a proponent of the project (a conservative think tank) from the Heritage Foundation will use a dagger to avoid catastrophic warming,” said Joe Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for Science from the University of Pennsylvania. , Sustainable development and media.

“Trump promises to eliminate all constraints on global warming. Trump has spread more lies and misinformation about climate change than anyone ever has.

Other climate experts say Trump’s climate denial is the culmination of years of pro-fossil fuel propaganda.

“Trump is the apotheosis of decades of denial, not only from the fossil fuel industry, but also from other industry allies, now including some billionaires, to deny the reality of wrongdoing unregulated, or very poorly regulated industries, capitalism,” said Naomi Oreskes, co-author of Merchants of Doubt and a historian of science at Harvard “Donald Trump is the. reduction by the absurd of this rewriting of history, culminating in the big lie that he won the 2020 election.”

Trump’s strong embrace of climate change denial and pro-Big Oil policies were underscored by his aggressive billion-dollar speech at Mar-a-Lago, which attracted the CEOs of giants such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, and fracking multibillionaire Harold Hamm, the founder of Continental Resources, as first reported by the Washington Post.

Hamm, an early Trump supporter in 2016 and 2020 who took months to support Trump’s current presidential bid, joined two other industry CEOs to host a Super Pac party in Houston that would have raised $40 million on May 22 from participants who paid at least $250,000 each. hearing Trump promise more fracking and more pipelines if he wins.

Trump’s push for fossil fuel funds and policy support was palpable at an industry conference in North Dakota in early May, where Hamm surprised attendees by announcing that Trump would join via a video containing false claims about the health of energy companies and the economy.

“Under the leadership of crooked Joe Biden, the American energy industry is under siege, in crisis. (Biden) has made it clear that he wants to abolish your industry and, with it, destroy our economy and send us into a dark new era of blackouts, poverty and deindustrialization,” Trump said.

View of an Exxon gas station in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Attention to Trump’s ardent pursuit of oil and gas handouts comes after Biden championed major new regulatory, tax and spending measures to reduce global warming, in a sharp departure from past and present policies of Trump.

Ironically, even as Biden succeeded in accelerating green energy spending and imposing new regulations on fracking on American lands and a moratorium on natural gas exports, oil and gas production in the United States reached new highs in 2023 and major companies reported strong profits.

Still, the oil and gas industry poured money into Trump’s campaign faster than in 2020, according to the nonpartisan group OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics.

The oil and gas industry has donated $7.3 million to Trump’s campaign so far, more than three times the amount it had given to this point in 2020, according to OpenSecrets data.

Additionally, some industry titans have donated six- and seven-figure checks to a Trump Super Pac. Texas oilman and multibillionaire Tim Dunn gave $5 million to Trump’s Make America Great Again Pac program this year, and Hamm gave at least $200,000 last fall.

Campaign finance watchdogs and some Republican veterans are dismayed by Trump’s fundraising tactics.

“Trump views everything as a transaction, so I’m not surprised,” said former GOP Rep. Dave Trott. “Any other politician who makes such statements would be considered dead on arrival as they would be considered corrupt.”

Campaign finance experts see other dangers in Trump’s heavy-handed fundraising appeals, which he associates with favors.

“When wealthy special interests, like the oil and gas industry, have privileged access to candidates and mechanisms that give them enough money to control their policy choices, ordinary voters suffer,” said Shanna Ports, legal counsel. Director of the Campaign Legal Center for the campaign. finance.

“Trump’s request to oil executives is a disturbing illustration of the quid pro quo corruption and pay-to-play politics that federal election laws are designed to prevent. Federal law provides strict contribution limits and specifically prohibits corporate contributions so that candidates do not trade political favors for campaign money.

Ports emphasized that “candidates are prohibited from soliciting contributions that would violate these laws – a prohibition that Trump may have violated.”

Likewise, Noble, a former Federal Election Commission counsel, said Trump’s calls for massive donations from oil and gas bigwigs “pretty blatantly offer political favors in exchange for large contributions” .

It’s no wonder, then, that top Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives are questioning whether Trump’s simple $1 billion demand from oil tycoons violated campaign finance laws, as well as the long history of disinformation from big oil companies on global warming.

In Whitehouse and Raskin’s joint letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Justice Department to investigate Big Oil’s history of climate change misinformation, they drew parallels with years of misinformation from the tobacco industry about the dangers that smoking poses to human health.

“The DoJ is well positioned to continue the investigation and take any appropriate legal action, as it has done in similar cases involving the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries,” they wrote.

Looking ahead to the November election, climate change experts predict that a new Trump presidency would decimate efforts to curb global warming.

“If Trump is elected and does what he says and what the fossil fuel industry wants, it would be the ruin of the United States and the world,” warned Romm, of the University of Pennsylvania.

“Trump wants to roll back” ambitious climate change measures and spending initiated by the Biden administration, Romm added, saying: “We have dragged on climate change for a very long time. We need very strong reductions. We cannot afford to spend four years increasing emissions.”

News Source : amp.theguardian.com
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