Faced with new questions last week about her cash haul from the oil and gas industry, Hillary Clinton and her campaign fended off the queries with a flat rejoinder: There is no explicit quid pro quo between major donations and public policies pushed by Clinton. The Clinton team also noted that the millions of dollars that flowed to her campaign and a super PAC supporting her White House bid came from the industry’s individual employees and lobbyists, not from the oil companies themselves.
But Clinton’s family foundation has accepted millions of dollars directly from major fossil fuel companies — including from those that lobbied her State Department just before the agency approved a controversial pipeline delivering what environmentalists call one of the world’s dirtiest sources of energy. The Clinton Foundation did not respond to International Business Times’ request for comment.
In 2009, the Clinton-led State Department approved a permit for the 400-mile Alberta Clipper pipeline, which is designed to pump up to 450,000 barrels of oil per day from the Canadian oil sands to Wisconsin (where recent polls show Democratic primary voters are concerned about its impact). According to federal lobbying records reviewed by the IBT, Chevron and ConocoPhillips both lobbied the State Department specifically on the issue of “oil sands” in the immediate months prior to the department's approval, as did a trade association funded by ExxonMobil.
Those three oil companies have delivered between between $2.5 million and $3 million to the Clinton Foundation. That is on top of money their executives and lobbyists delivered to Clinton’s campaign and super PAC in her 2008 presidential bid — the year before she approved the pipeline.
All three companies have made substantial investments in developing the Canadian oil sands served by the Alberta Clipper. Environmental experts interviewed by IBT agreed that any major oil company operating in the tar sands benefited from the State Department’s decision to approve the pipeline because it increased the overall amount of petroleum that can now be pumped to market from the remote region.
“A pipeline is like a highway for the transport of oil, and if you build a new highway then all of the businesses along that highway or at the end of the highway are going to benefit,” said Sarah Burt, a staff attorney at the environmental group Earthjustice, which filed a lawsuit to try to overturn the Obama administration's approval of the pipeline, which now may be further expanded. “Whether it’s because they are using that highway or because it frees up space on another highway that also goes from point A to point B, it’s still a general benefit for the transportation of oil.”
In the case of Chevron, the company has since 1999 owned a 20 percent stake in a major Canadian tar sands project with Royal Dutch Shell. Chevron reported lobbying the State Department and other agencies on the issue of “oil sands” between April 1st and December 31st of 2009 — precisely when the Clinton-led State Department was reviewing and approved the Alberta Clipper.
In the year prior to the approval, Chevron’s Laurence Humphries was a top fundraising “bundler” for Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, raising more than $100,000 for her run, according to the watchdog group Public Citizen. Following the pipeline approval, Chevron hosted an event at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010, according to CGI’s website. The company also gave the Clinton Foundation $250,000 in 2013, reported the Wall Street Journal. In all, Chevron has given between $500,000 and $1 million to the foundation. Two Chevron lobbyists are listed as fundraising bundlers for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, according to the Huffington Post .
Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie told IBT in a statement that there was no connection between the company’s philanthropic activity and its lobbying of the State Department.
“The Clinton Global Initiative was one of the many partnerships and programs that the company has had or maintains to advance our aim to build communities by investing in health, education and economic development in the areas where we do business,” said Ritchie.
The company, which says it has donated $725,000 to the Initiative over a nine-year period, told IBT it has no plans to make further contributions.
The American Petroleum Institute also lobbied the State Department every quarter in 2009 . In three of four quarters, the group listed “legislative efforts concerning oil sands” as one of the areas it was focusing on in its lobbying, and in the final quarter, it listed “Canadian Oil Sands.” Among API’s members are ExxonMobil, which has invested in Canadian oil sands.
The Wall Street Journal reported that ExxonMobil has delivered roughly $2 million to the Clinton Foundation since 2009 and nearly $17 million to another nonprofit group co-founded by Hillary Clinton. Two lobbyists linked to ExxonMobil are now raising money for her 2016 presidential bid.
ConocoPhillips boasts that “we hold nearly 1.1 million net acres of land in the oil sands,” which is “one of the largest land and resource positions in the region.” Federal records show the company lobbied the State Department every quarter of 2009, and lobbied the department specifically on “Canadian Oil Sands development” from April to June and then from October to December. ConocoPhillips has given the Clinton foundation between $10,000 and $25,000.
At the time that the companies and API were lobbying the State Department on oil sands, the agency was also considering a separate Keystone XL pipeline proposal to serve the same area. Federal records do not delineate which pipeline the companies may have been lobbying on. Clinton did not take a definitive position on the Keystone XL proposal until 2015, well after she left the State Department.