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In a recent post on Medium, Robby Mook -- Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager -- countered accusations from Bernie Sanders that Clinton has been tainted by taking money from oil and gas interests.
"In last week’s debate," Mook wrote of the April 14 Democratic presidential face-off in Brooklyn, "Bernie questioned Hillary’s commitment to fighting climate change because a whopping 0.2 percent of the money given to our campaign has come from employees of oil and gas companies. Not even 2 percent, mind you: 0.2 percent."
We have taken a look at this general topic before but haven’t rated this particular assertion, so we’ll do it here.
A look at the numbers
We turned to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent clearinghouse for campaign finance data.
Clinton has raised $307,561 from people employed by the oil and gas industry. It’s worth noting that not all this money comes from people with deep pockets; this total includes donations from everyone employed by the industry, from CEOs to gas-station employees.
Altogether, Clinton’s campaign has raised more than $180 million, so the percentage raised from employees of the oil and gas industry works out to 0.17 percent -- which is actually a bit less than Mook said.
By comparison, Sanders has raised less from oil and gas employees than Clinton has -- $53,760 -- which amounts to 0.03 percent of the $182 million his campaign has raised.
In any case, this particular statistic looks solid on the math.
That said, we’ll raise a caveat.
Mook’s narrow focus
Mook has worded the claim carefully to exclude other donations, which amounts to a bit of cherry-picking.
Mook refers to "employees." But as the Sanders campaign has argued -- citing analyses by Greenpeace and the Huffington Post -- Clinton’s campaign has also received donations from lobbyists who have ties to oil and gas interests. These donations would not be reported as having come from employees of oil and gas companies and thus aren’t included in the total we calculated above.
The Huffington Post article, from July 17, 2015, found that "nearly all of the lobbyists bundling contributions for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign have at one time or another worked for the fossil fuel industry." It links to 40 registered lobbyists but only offers details on some donors who still work for the industry.
The Greenpeace report says that when you add in donations by lobbyists with an alleged tie to the fossil fuel industry, Clinton's total would rise to nearly $1.8 million. The fossil fuel industry's share of the Clinton coffers would go up to about 0.8 percent.
The Sanders campaign added that the Greenpeace report goes a step further to include more than $4 million to Priorities Action USA, the super PAC that supports Clinton. And the Sanders team said that Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil have donated at least $2.5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
"I understand the Clinton campaign objects to these figures, because some of the fossil fuel lobbyists who have bundled huge sums of money for their campaign also represent clients in other industries," said Sanders spokesman Warren Gunnels. "In our view, that makes these contributions even more objectionable. It's the lobbyists in Washington who write the bills and curry special favors for the firms they represent. You can't reform big oil and gas companies by taking bundled campaign cash from their lobbyists."
The Sanders critique is not a slam-dunk, however
For starters, it’s a stretch to draw a direct line between those super PAC donations and Clinton’s campaign. Under federal law, the candidates have no control over super PAC spending.
In addition, it’s up for debate how significant these lobbyists’ donations are. It’s not clear how much of influence the oil and gas industry would wield through a donor who once lobbied for them but doesn’t any more. In some cases, the lobbyists advocated for clients in multiple industries, not just oil and gas.
Finally, Clinton’s stances on oil and gas issues is not exactly in tune with the industry. She has said that if individuals from the industry want to donate to her, they should know that they may be wasting their money. She favors policies the oil and gas industry doesn’t like, and she is a big supporter of renewable energy, a philosophy Sanders has also embraced.
Mook wrote, "In last week’s debate, Bernie questioned Hillary’s commitment to fighting climate change because a whopping 0.2 percent of the money given to our campaign has come from employees of oil and gas companies. Not even 2 percent, mind you: 0.2 percent."
Mook’s statement is accurate, though it’s carefully constructed to exclude donations by lobbyists who have at one time represented the industry -- a point made by Sanders, though its relevance is up for debate. The statement is accurate but needs additional information, so we rate it Mostly True.
Robby Mook,"Bernie’s latest attack is irresponsible and poisonous" (Medium post), April 18, 2016
Center for Responsive Politics, "2016 Presidential Race," accessed April 22, 2016
Center for Responsive Politics, "Selected Industry Totals: Oil and gas," accessed April 22, 2016
PolitiFact, "Sorting out Hillary Clinton’s fossil fuel contributions," April 1, 2016
Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn, N.Y, transcript, April 14, 2016
Huffington Post, "Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists," July 17, 2015
Greenpeace, "Hillary Clinton’s Connections to the Oil and Gas Industry," April 19, 2016
Email interview with Josh Schwerin, spokesman for Hillary Clinton, April 21, 2016
Email interview with Warren Gunnels, spokesman for Bernie Sanders, April 22, 2016
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