WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton has called for a federal investigation into Exxon Mobil Corp.’s funding of climate change denial just months after the Houston-based oil giant decided to end its sponsorship of the Clinton Global Initiative.
At a New Hampshire town hall meeting last Thursday, Clinton told Jordan Cichon, a local activist and community organizer for the environmental activism group 350 Action, that Exxon Mobil deserved to be investigated for apparently covering up decades-old evidence of the impact of fossil fuels on global warming.
“There’s a lot of evidence that they misled,” she told Cichon in the brief interaction caught on video by 350 Action:
Prior to the statement, Clinton had been reluctant to comment on the behavior of this former financial benefactor.
Writing for International Business Times on Friday, David Sirota and Andrew Perez noted that Clinton’s statement comes just months after a report by USA Today revealed the failing fortunes of the Clinton Global Initiative, a branch of the Clinton Foundation, the massive nonprofit run by her family. The report showed that several long-time, big-name sponsors, including Exxon Mobil, had backed out of, or reduced their support for the initiative’s annual meeting this year.
In recent months, separate investigations led by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News revealed that Exxon Mobil research dating as far back as 1977 showed evidence of the damaging effects of the company’s products on the environment. But as Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer write for InsideClimate News:
“It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.”
Yet Clinton is not the first Democratic presidential hopeful to call for an investigation into Exxon Mobil’s behavior. On Oct. 16, a tweet from Martin O’Malley compared the situation to the efforts of tobacco companies to cover up evidence that cigarettes cause cancer:
We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer. Let’s do the same for oil companies & climate change. http://t.co/mS4fMEEduy
— Martin O'Malley (@MartinOMalley) October 16, 2015
Drawing a similar comparison on Oct. 22, Bernie Sanders told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he was calling on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to formally investigate:
“It wasn’t that they [the tobacco industry] were selling a product that caused cancer and killed people, it was that they lied. They had evidence within the industry to say their product was causing serious health problems. … That is — that’s the crime here [with Exxon Mobil]. And if it is true, and we want the attorney general and a task force to investigation, they are breaking the law.”
Sirota and Perez noted that Clinton’s fortunes were once closely aligned with that of Exxon Mobil:
“The Clinton Foundation has accepted at least $1 million from ExxonMobil, despite the company’s history of financing challenges to climate science. And Clinton’s State Department touted ExxonMobil as an example of how America should look at Iraq as ‘a business opportunity.’”
Exxon Mobil is known for buying influence in Washington politics. In June, MintPress News reported that the corporation is among the fossil fuel industry’s top spenders on lobbying. Since then, new data from OpenSecrets.org, a government transparency project from the Center for Responsive Politics, indicates that Exxon Mobil has spent $9.19 million so far this year on lobbying, putting it ahead of 2014 industry lobbying leader Koch Industries.
Clinton’s image has been tarnished by her ties to the Clinton Foundation before. While she was Secretary of State, Saudi Arabia gave millions to the foundation while Clinton helped Saudi Arabia secure lucrative weapons deals. An April report also suggested donations encouraged Clinton to ignore human rights abuses in Colombia during the same period.
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