Environmentalist GOP Donors Are Losing Hope

Republican donors who care about combating climate change are finding they have to lower their expectations for the presidential race.

Wind energy got a positive mention on the stump from Sen. Marco Rubio last week, but the Republican presidential candidates as a group do not support action on climate change.
AP Photo/Marco Garcia
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
Jason Plautz
Jan. 19, 2016, 8 p.m.

Republican donor Andy Sabin had a great seat on the floor for Thursday’s GOP presidential debate and found himself increasingly impressed with the way Ted Cruz answered some questions. But overall, Sabin left frustrated with a lack of discussion of his pet topics: energy and climate change.

“Zero. None. It’s a nonissue,” Sabin said.

Just another lonely night in the life of a green GOP donor.

Sabin, president of the New York-based refining company Sabin Metal Corporation, may seem like a paradox. He’s given to Karl Rove’s Crossroads USA PAC and the state Republican Party, but also last year gave $3.5 million to Columbia University’s school of climate-change law. He’s vowed to try to get the party to fight climate change, even as many standard-bearers on the Right deny that it is happening.

Even though the party on the whole hasn’t embraced any climate-change action, there are a handful of donors trying to get the GOP on board. North Carolina businessman Jay Fasion, for example, got plenty of press over the summer (including in National Journal), for announcing a $10 million 501(c)(4) political action group and a $165 million foundation called ClearPath to back Republican candidates who want to work on clean energy.

So far in the presidential race, that money hasn’t made much of a dent—and now donors are left figuring out what’s next.

Of the candidates with strong enough poll numbers to make last week’s main-stage debate, only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has acknowledged that humans play some role in the changing climate, although it’s hardly an endorsement of the scientific consensus. And with dwindling support that puts him around fifth place in the polls, nobody is counting on Bush’s stance to make much headway.

Cruz and front-runner Donald Trump have both been scornful of climate-change action (Cruz on Tuesday said climate change was the “perfect pseudo-scientific theory” backed by “big-government politicians”). Sen. Marco Rubio had to run from a story last week that he had supported a cap-and-trade system in Florida.

The candidates who offered the most full-throated support for climate action—former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—both dropped out of the race after toiling in the low single digits (Graham on Friday endorsed Bush, but didn’t mention climate change in his endorsement).

“These people, they don’t understand,” Sabin said, calling out some candidates as “clueless” on the environment. “They think if we mention carbon reduction, it’s shutting down American industry. You and I know that’s not true.”

Faison, in an interview, said his expectations “weren’t too high for the primary season” but that he was hopeful the Republican nominee would have a clear energy agenda when the general election came around. Faison said his ClearPath spending group didn’t even cut a check to a presidential candidate in the fourth quarter of 2015—his last donation was a $1,000 gift to Rubio’s campaign reported in September.

Rubio, he said, has positioned himself on clean energy in a “smart” way. Last week, Rubio said in New Hampshire: “Let’s be No. 1 in wind, let’s be No. 1 in solar, let’s be No. 1 in biofuel, No. 1 in renewables, No. 1 in energy efficiency. Let’s lead in all of these things.”

“We’re all about a conservative clean-energy agenda, and we are seeing candidates talk about that,” Faison said. “We don’t have to talk about the science of climate change to talk about clean energy, so to that extent we’re happy.”

But, Faison added: “If you look at the whole spectrum of elected officials, we don’t have to support a presidential candidate.”

Indeed, there are more glimmers of green on the congressional level. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire has won plaudits from environmental groups for backing President Obama’s carbon-pollution limits on power plants (Faison gave her $500,000 last summer). Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, facing a tough reelection fight, has been less clear on his climate positions, although he voted against a Senate measure to kill the power-plant rules in November. Sabin gave two $2,700 donations to Kirk’s campaign in 2015.

And a smattering of House Republicans backed a nonbinding resolution saying that human activity contributes to climate change and encouraging action to fight it.

Seeing more action down the ballot, Sabin said that he’s begun to refocus his efforts on bringing together members of Congress—including Rep. Chris Gibson of New York, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana—to discuss environmental priorities, like nuclear power and natural gas.

But in a telling detail, Sabin said they’re talking about “carbon reduction,” not “climate change.”

“We’re talking about the same thing, just a different title,” he said. “I think for some reason, Republicans think ‘climate change’ is a Democratic thing.”

What We're Following See More »
SAYS HIS DEATH STEMMED FROM A FISTFIGHT
Saudis Admit Khashoggi Killed in Embassy
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."

Source:
ROGER STONE IN THE CROSSHAIRS?
Mueller Looking into Ties Between WikiLeaks, Conservative Groups
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."

Source:
PROBING COLLUSION AND OBSTRUCTION
Mueller To Release Key Findings After Midterms
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.

Source:
PASSED ON SO-CALLED "SAR" REPORTS
FinCen Official Charged with Leaking Info on Manafort, Gates
1 days ago
THE DETAILS
"A senior official working for the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been charged with leaking confidential financial reports on former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort, Richard Gates and others to a media outlet. Prosecutors say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser to FinCEN, photographed what are called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, and other sensitive government files and sent them to an unnamed reporter, in violation of U.S. law."
Source:
FIRST CHARGE FOR MIDTERMS
DOJ Charges Russian For Meddling In 2018 Midterms
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login