Fossil Fuel Donors Are Giving Republican Candidates Millions & The Biggest Beneficiaries Have One Belief In Common

Fossil fuel donors are throwing millions at eight of the Republican presidential candidates in the 2016 race, and three of the candidates are the most well-known climate change deniers in the pool. The donations are coming from individual billionaires with close ties to fossil fuels, and from corporations that work directly as part of the fossil fuel industry, according to the Guardian. In fact, fossil fuel donations to Republican candidates add up to $62 million so far this year.

The eight Republican hopefuls receiving donations from donors with ties to fossil fuels are Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz. The $62 million came from just 17 billionaires and corporations, meaning that each donation was a fairly hefty sum — the largest was $15 million. All of this money was funneled into the candidates' Super PACs, which are allowed to receive unlimited contributions. Three of the candidates receiving the most money are also well-known for their climate change denial and their favoring of policies that help the fossil fuel industry expand: Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

To put into perspective just how big that $62-million chunk is: All Democrats and Republicans in the 2016 presidential race have collectively received about $400 million so far in 2015. If the wealthy billionaire donors don't own fossil fuel corporations, then they have ties to oil and gas operations, fracking companies, drilling firms, and corporations associated with the emissions of industrial carbon dioxide.

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And a recent study of the donations by Greenpeace and the Center for Media and Democracy, based on Federal Election Commission filings, found that Cruz was the largest beneficiary of fossil fuel donations. This is the Cruz who has called climate change a "so-called scientific theory" in interviews with CNN. The Cruz who has compared climate change scientists to "flat-Earthers." The Cruz who — despite the fact that even NASA has said that 97 percent of publishing climate scientists agree that the earth is warming due to human activities — still claimed that there isn't data supporting climate change.

The biggest contributors from 2013 to 2014 have been Charles and David Koch's Koch Industries, Ken Davis Finance, and Chevron Corp, according to Open Secrets.

Connor Gibson, the Greenpeace researcher who worked on the FEC filings study, told the Guardian that the amount of money fossil fuel industries are pouring into the 2016 election is unprecedented. He said that given the recent focus on climate change and alternative energy, the potential viability of candidates who deny climate change is scary. Specifically, Gibson asked what favors the fossil fuel industries will expect down the line should Cruz, Bush, or Perry be elected president:

Will these candidates be expected to roll back federal oversight and regulation of fracking and methane leaks? Will they be more likely to allow drilling in the Arctic at a time when scientists are warning that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground?
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But Sabrina Fang, a spokesperson for the American Patroleum Institute, told the Guardian that all sectors donate to candidates that they want to see succeed — candidates who will allow them to continue employing their workers and allow their businesses to flourish:

Candidates running for president receive campaign contributions from all industries, including the wealthy environmental community, as part of our constitutional right. For API, our candidate is energy and its importance to jobs, revenue to the government and our national security.

But what Greenpeace and other critics have pointed out is that the fossil fuel industry, unlike other donors, will actively contribute to climate change.

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Both Bush and Perry have also said they are skeptical of climate science. Bush has received donations from one of the world's main offshore-platform-drilling contractors, as well as an energy infrastructure company that owns 84,000 miles of pipeline. Though Bush has publicly stated that the climate is changing, he has called the science "convoluted" and referred to the 97 percent of scientists saying that humans are responsible as "really arrogant."

In July, The Nation and 350 Action, a climate change activist group, challenged presidential candidates to “neither solicit nor accept campaign contributions” from fossil-fuel-related donors or companies. 350 Action said that in the 1990s, both Republican and Democratic candidates wouldn't take money from big tobacco because the companies weren't being honest about the health effects of their products. 350 Action spokesperson Jamie Henn told Grist that fossil fuel companies “have consistently misled the public about the dangers associated with their product, and this time it’s the whole planet that’s at stake. You can’t be serious about addressing climate change and still accept checks from ExxonMobil.”

So far, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley have taken the Nation's pledge to swear off fossil fuel money in this election. Democratic candidate Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he would not take the pledge. Jim Webb, Hillary Clinton, and all of the Republican candidates have not responded to the pledge.