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Joe Biden faced a steady grilling over his relationship to the oil and gas industry during CNN's climate town hall Wednesday. And the next day he attended a fundraiser hosted by a guy who co-founded a fossil fuel company.
On Thursday night, the former vice president attended a big-ticket fundraiser hosted by Andrew Goldman, one of Biden’s former advisers and co-founder of Western LNG. (The “LNG” stands for “liquified natural gas,” which is a fossil fuel.) The night before, Biden was pressed during CNN’s climate forum about the fundraiser, which activists have said violates his pledge not to take money from fossil fuel executives.
But Biden went to the fundraiser anyway, where attendees were asked to contribute $2,800 to his campaign. As Biden defended his decision to attend the fundraiser inside the event, protestors from the youth-led climate activist group the Sunrise Movement chanted, “Hey hey, hey Joe, fracked gas has got to go,” according to the New York Times.
“I just want to be very clear to everyone here,” Biden said at the event, according to a pool report. “I am committed to not raising money from fossil fuel executives, and I am not doing that tonight.”
Goldman is listed as a co-founder on Western LNG’s website, but Biden’s camp has insisted that Goldman is not involved in the firm’s day-to-day operations — and therefore isn’t a “fossil fuel executive.” But activists say Biden’s splitting hairs and making a false distinction.
As recently as last year, Goldman was listed as part of the company’s senior management team on a Canadian filing, and the company currently has plans to build a floating liquified natural gas export facility off the coast of British Columbia.
At the climate town hall Wednesday night, Biden seemed taken aback at a question about his association with Goldman.
“How can we trust you to hold these corporations and executives accountable for their crimes against humanity when we know that tomorrow you are holding a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by Andrew Goldman, a fossil fuel executive?” asked Isaac Larkin, a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University.
“He’s not a fossil fuel executive,” Biden shot back.
After moderator Anderson Cooper pressed Biden on the issue, Symone Sanders, senior adviser to the Biden campaign, took to Twitter to try to clear things up. “What @andersoncooper just said about VP Biden's fundraiser is factually incorrect,” she tweeted. “Andrew Goldman isn't a fossil fuel executive. He's not involved in the day-to-day operation.”
“What I was told by my staff is that he did not have any responsibility related to the company,” Biden clarified during the town hall. “He was not on the board, he was not involved at all in the operation of the company at all. But if that turns out to be true, then I will not in any way accept his help.”
All of the major candidates in the 2020 Democratic field have signed a pledge not to take donations of more than $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, or PACs. It’s unclear if Goldman donated to Biden or how much money he spent hosting the fundraiser, but Federal Election Commission guidelines say it’s allowable to spend $1,000 on supplies for an in-home fundraiser for a candidate without that counting as an official contribution.
In the years since President Donald Trump took office, the country has faced major hurricanes, wildfires, floods, droughts, and record heatwaves. Climate change is no longer a distant threat, and Democratic voters appear to understand that. Poll after poll has indicated they want a candidate with a strong plan to address the climate crisis.
“Having a natural gas company co-founder organize a fundraiser for you clearly violates the spirit of the no fossil fuel money pledge Biden signed,” Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, told VICE News. “How can young people trust Joe Biden to tackle climate change when he's taking money from people who have made millions of dollars off the companies driving us toward an uninhabitable future?”
Cover image: Former Vice President Joe Biden waves after the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)