Trump vows to reverse climate policies if Big Oil execs give him $1 billion

Campaign finance experts have said that Trump’s request, while troubling, is probably legal. He could be liable, however, for violating campaign finance rules against candidates asking specific individuals to contribute more than the federal limit on campaign contributions. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

By Isabel Soisson

May 13, 2024

Former President Donald Trump asked oil industry executives to donate $1 billion to his reelection campaign last month at a dinner meeting at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a report from The Washington Post.

In exchange? Trump vowed to reverse dozens of President Biden’s environmental policies should he be elected in November, and to stop future ones from being enacted.

Giving his campaign $1 billion would be a “deal,” Trump said at the dinner, according to people with knowledge of the meeting who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity, because of the taxation and regulation the companies would avoid thanks to his hypothetical actions.

Executives from oil companies Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Continental Resources were all in attendance. The dinner also included executives from natural gas producer EQT and gas exporter Cheniere Energy, as well as the trade association American Petroleum Institute, according to The Post.

These oil industry executives reportedly have a long list of policy actions they would want Trump to take if he returns to the White House, according to POLITICO. These actions include rolling back pollution regulations that damage their bottom lines, as well as dismantling certain parts of Biden’s green agenda.

For example, Trump vowed to end the Biden administration’s freeze on permits for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports at the dinner. This has been a top priority of the oil industry, according to three people who were present.

Biden put a freeze on these permits in an effort to live up to his pledge of transitioning away from America’s dependence on fossil fuels, as drilling for them produces significant air pollution, as well as disturbs the wildlife and water resources in a given area.

“You’ll get it on the first day,” Trump said, according to the recollection of one attendee.

The former president also told these executives that should he take office again, he’ll begin auctioning off more leases for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and would reverse the current restrictions on drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. Like drilling for natural gas, oil drilling produces significant air pollution and disturbs land and marine ecosystems.

Trump additionally rallied against wind power, which has proven to be a clean and renewable energy source which provides electricity without burning any fuel that pollutes the air.

Plus, he vowed to scrap Biden’s electric vehicle rules, which are a new series of regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that require automakers to reduce emissions from vehicle tailpipes, but don’t mandate a particular technology such as EVs.

Legal Implications

Campaign finance experts have said that Trump’s request, while troubling, is probably legal.

Erin Chlopak, senior campaign finance director at the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, did tell POLITICO, however, that the situation “perfectly captures so much of what’s wrong with our big money campaign finance system.”

Meredith McGehee, an independent expert on government ethics and campaign finance, additionally told POLITICO that “the state of the law and the state of the enforcement agency is abysmal.” McGehee said that unless the former president, theoretically, wrote on a napkin the exact amount of money he wanted deposited in a specific campaign account in exchange for a specific policy goal, there’s little chance the interaction would violate current bribery laws.

In other words, there has to be a paper trail.

“This is a scandal, and the notion that our government works where candidates go to industry and promise government action in exchange for large amounts of money is an indictment of the system,” she said.

Chlopak added that Trump could be liable, however, for violating campaign finance rules against candidates asking specific individuals to contribute more than the federal limit on campaign contributions—which is $3,300 per election to individual campaigns and $5,000 to political action committees. Super PACs can make unlimited donations, but candidates aren’t allowed to solicit them.

Experts have also insinuated that the $1 billion could ultimately wind up being used on something other than his campaign, according to Dan Eberhart, chief executive of the Denver-based oil company Canary LLC, who did not attend the dinner. After all, Trump has spent the last several weeks in a Manhattan courtroom fighting allegations of falsifying business records.

“I think everyone knows part of it is going to his legal expenses,” Eberhart said.

Biden v. Trump on Climate Change

Over the last three years, the Biden administration has finalized more than 100 new environmental regulations that are aimed at everything from cutting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to conserving public lands and waters.

Perhaps his most notable climate action is the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, which established a mix of tax credits for companies and rebates for consumers in order to make the manufacturing and consumption of clean energy technologies and products cheaper.

Additionally, the law provided $80 billion in financial rebates for millions of households to adopt those clean energy products, such as electric vehicles, solar panels, and more efficient heat pumps.

By making clean energy—like solar, wind, and hydropower—cheaper to produce and use, the IRA seeks to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels that are one of the biggest sources of emissions that drive climate change.

Biden officials have also overturned 27 Trump actions which affect the fossil fuel industry, according to an analysis from The Washington Post.

In stark contrast, Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” and while in office, his administration weakened or ended more than 125 environmental rules and policies.

Author

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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