Jeb Bush Has Major Fossil Fuel Ties, And Media Coverage Of His Energy Plan Should Mention Them

Jeb Bush Has Major Fossil Fuel Ties, And Media Coverage Of His Energy Plan Should Mention Them

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER & DENISE ROBBINS

Numerous media outlets have covered GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush's new fossil fuel-friendly energy plan without mentioning his extensive ties to the industry. Both Bush's campaign and his super PAC have received significant donations from oil and gas interests, Bush met secretly with coal industry executives in June, and he recently appointed fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to oversee his campaign policy agenda.

Bush's National Energy Plan Favors Oil And Gas Industry

Bush Announced Energy Plan That Will Expand Fossil Fuel Development And Roll Back Environmental Protections. Bush released his energy plan on September 29, declaring on his campaign website that it will "unleash" an "Energy Revolution" that "creates jobs in the oil and gas fields." Bush put forth the following industry-friendly proposals:

  • Lifting the ban on crude oil exports and liberalizing natural gas exports;
  • Approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline;
  • Stopping the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which addresses climate change by establishing the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants;
  • Reducing "overregulation," including opposing federal standards for hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking";
  • Deferring to states when it comes to oil and gas development inside their borders [jeb2016.com, accessed 9/29/15]

Bush And His Presidential Campaign Have Extensive Ties To The Fossil Fuel Industry

Bush's Super PAC Has Reportedly Received Over $9 Million From Oil And Gas Interests. The International Business Times reported that "[o]il and gas executives and organizations have contributed more than $9 million to the super PAC backing Bush's campaign -- making the industry the second largest donor collectively to the group." A report from the Institute for Southern Studies detailed many of the fossil fuel industry's contributions to Bush's super PAC, Right to Rise USA (emphasis original):

  • Houston businessman Robert McNair, worth $3.3 billion, made his fortune from Cogen Technologies, one of the largest non-utility co-generators of electrical and thermal energy in the United States, which he sold to Enron in 1999. Now the owner of power plants and real estate and financial firms as well as National Football League team the Houston Texans, McNair split $2 million four ways among super PACs backing presidential candidates [Ted] Cruz, Bush, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who just dropped out of the race.
  • Hushang Ansary, former Iranian ambassador to the U.S., now lives in Houston with his wife, Shahla Ansary, and each gave a pro-Bush super PAC $1 million. Hushang Ansary once directed the National Iranian Oil Company and was later chairman of a company that makes oilfield equipment.
  • Richard Kinder, CEO of Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based oil and gas pipeline company, gave a pro-Bush super PAC $1 million, as did his wife, Nancy Kinder. Richard Kinder's wealth is estimated at $9 billion.
  • Texas oil company founder Ray L. Hunt and his wife, Nancy Hunt, each gave a pro-Bush super PAC $1 million. Ray Hunt's net worth has been estimated at $5.8 billion.
  • Fracking pioneer Trevor Rees-Jones of Dallas and his wife, Jan Rees-Jones, forked over another combined $2 million to a super PAC supporting Bush. Trevor Rees-Jones, the founder and chairman of Chief Oil and Gas, has a net worth of about $5.3 billion.

In addition, a separate International Business Times article noted that Bush's Super PAC also received a donation from "oil tycoon" T. Boone Pickens, who contributed $100,000 to Right to Rise USA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [Institute for Southern Studies, 9/21/15; International Business Times, 9/29/15; 9/29/15; OpenSecrets.org, accessed 9/29/15]

Bush Campaign Has Directly Received Over $100,000 From The Oil And Gas Industry, Including Tens Of Thousands From Prominent Utility Tied To Fracking. According to a review of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data by the Center for Responsive Politics, Bush's presidential campaign had received $126,200 from the oil and gas industry as of July 21. Among Bush's biggest donors is NextEra Energy, which contributed $27,600 to Bush's campaign as of that date. NextEra Energy is the parent company of Florida Power & Light, which in December 2014 received "approval to get into the controversial fracking business," according to The Miami Herald. The Independent Business Times reported that the NextEra donation is "particularly notable considering Bush's past support" for Florida Power & Light; Bush "wrote an editorial urging the state's Public Service Commission to approve a rate increase for Florida Power and Light" in 2009. The FEC filing deadline for Bush's next quarterly fundraising report is October 15. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 9/29/15Miami Herald, 6/17/15; International Business Times, 9/29/15; FEC.gov, accessed 9/29/15]

Bush Held Closed-Door Meeting With Coal Industry CEOs. According to The Guardian, Bush appeared at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum on June 1 at the invitation of executives from six coal-mining companies that have spent over $17 million on campaigns and lobbying since the last presidential election. The Washington Post, which like The Guardian obtained a copy of the event's invitation, similarly reported that Bush met with "top officers of some of the largest coal firms in the eastern United States." [The Guardian, 5/29/15; The Washington Post, 6/1/15]

Bush Recently Appointed Fossil Fuel Industry Ally Scott Pruitt To Direct His Campaign's Policy Agenda. The Independent Business Times reported on September 29 that Bush's campaign appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead Bush's "Restoring Federalism Task Force," which will "produce policies aimed at shifting power from the federal government to the states." As the article noted, "[i]n 2014, Pruitt was the focus of a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigation detailing the cozy relationships between state attorneys general and energy firms." [International Business Times, 9/29/15]

NY Times: Pruitt Is Key Player In AGs' "Unprecedented, Secretive Alliance" With Fossil Fuel Industry. A December investigation by The New York Times revealed the "unprecedented, secretive alliance" between Republican attorneys general across the country and the fossil fuel industry to "push back against the Obama regulatory agenda." Times investigation focused on Pruitt in particular:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma's biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon's chief of lobbying.

"Outstanding!" William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt's office. The attorney general's staff had taken Devon's draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general's signature. "The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House."

Mr. Whitsitt then added, "Please pass along Devon's thanks to Attorney General Pruitt."

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation's top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

 [...]

Mr. Pruitt's ties with industry are clear. One of his closest partners has been Harold G. Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of Continental Resources, which is among the biggest oil and gas drilling companies in both Oklahoma and North Dakota.

Energy industry executives and lobbyists from across the United States saw great potential in Mr. Pruitt, a gifted politician who had been a state legislator and a minor-league baseball team co-owner and executive before running for attorney general.

Among them was Andrew P. Miller, a patrician 81-year-old former Virginia attorney general. Mr. Miller is a regular at gatherings of state attorneys general at resort destinations, and his client list includes TransCanada, the backer of the Keystone XL pipeline; the Southern Company, the Georgia-based electric utility, which has a large number of coal-burning power plants; and the investor group behind the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska.

For the energy industry, Mr. Pruitt was an easy choice. [The New York Times, 12/16/14]

Two Of Bush's Energy Policy Advisers Work For Fossil Fuel Companies. The Huffington Post reported that Bush's energy policy advisers include Jeff Kupfer, who is "on the board of directors at Pennsylvania-based oil and gas company Atlas Energy" and has "also worked at Chevron, where he led policy, legislative and regulatory initiatives for the company's Marcellus Shale business unit." The Huffington Post also reported that another of Bush's energy advisers, Brian Yablonski, is "the director of external affairs at Gulf Power Company, a division of the electric utility Southern Company." [Huffington Post, 9/29/15]

Many Media Reports On Bush's Energy Plan Omitted His Fossil Fuel Ties

Much Of Media's Coverage Of Energy Plan Made No Mention Of Bush's Industry Ties. Many major news outlets reported on Bush's plan without mentioning his ties to the fossil fuel industry. [Reuters, 9/29/15; Washington Post, 9/29/15; The New York Times, 9/29/15; The Wall Street Journal, 9/29/15; CBS.com, 9/29/15; NBC News, 9/29/15; CNN.com, 9/29/15]

By Contrast, A Couple Of Outlets Noted Energy Ties Of Bush's Donors

International Business Times: Bush' Energy Plan "Most Benefits His Top Donors." The International Business Times reported:

Who benefits most from the energy plan that Jeb Bush released Tuesday afternoon? The answer may be many of the presidential candidate's top donors.

A number of the biggest donors to Bush's campaign and to his super political action committee, Right to Rise, would benefit significantly from his proposed energy plan, which is friendly to oil and natural gas interests, as well as those interested in deregulation of the energy sector.

[...]

Looking at the list of donors who have given $1 million or more to Right to Rise, at least 14 donors work for companies that would directly benefit from Bush's proposed energy policies or work for companies that represent energy corporations or have connections to the energy sector.

[...]

Certainly not all of Bush's donors are involved in the energy industry, but a striking number of the top donors are, which makes sense for a candidate who has been seen as the establishment pick and is showing himself to be a friend of the energy industry. Whether his new energy plan gets Bush more favor with conservative Republicans remains to be seen, but many of his big bank rollers should be happy after Tuesday's announcement. [International Business Times, 9/30/15]

Politico Quoted Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta As Saying Bush Has "History Of Taking Campaign Contributions From Oil Interests." Politico reported of Bush's energy plan:

Bush's plan "reads like a Big Oil wish list, while apparently omitting clean energy and renewables entirely," Clinton campaign director John Podesta said in a statement to POLITICO. "Given Bush's long record of climate defeatism and his history of taking campaign contributions from oil interests, I guess we shouldn't be surprised." [Politico, 9/29/15]

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