Youth demonstrators stormed streets across the world demanding drastic action on the climate crisis on Friday, following a visit by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on Capitol Hill last week to press lawmakers to view rising greenhouse gases as an existential problem that requires an immediate response.
Behind closed doors, across town in Washington, D.C., Republican lawmakers, including leadership, huddled with the fossil fuel industry, maintaining the very ties that bind U.S. policymakers and prevent them from addressing climate change.
On September 18 and 19, as Thunberg met with lawmakers, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., hosted fundraisers with oil and gas lobbyists to raise cash for the Scalise Leadership Fund, a political action committee used to dole out cash for battleground House races across the country. The fundraiser invites were obtained by The Intercept and Documented.
The Wednesday afternoon event with Scalise was hosted by the BGR Group, a lobbying firm that represents Chevron, Southern Company, and Petroceltic International, among other fossil fuel interests. The following day, Scalise hosted an event advertised as an “Oil & Gas Industry Dinner,” charging up to $5,000 to attend the event as a host.
Also last week, Reps. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., and Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., held fundraisers with the utility industry. The two lawmakers were hosted by the Edison Electric Institute, a lobby group for the investor-owned utilities that has fought to preserve coal power plants and obstruct mandates for renewable energy. EEI, as it is known, represents Southern Company, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, and other utility companies that rely on coal-burning power plants.
Fossil fuel interests are a major source of fundraising for lawmakers in both parties, though they have become an integral part of the Republican Party in recent election cycles.
Dark-money groups backed by Koch Industries, the oil refining and shipping giant, spend tens of millions of dollars every cycle to support GOP candidates for Congress. Major fossil fuel companies also fund the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another vehicle for undisclosed campaign cash spent largely on behalf of Republicans. And in many of the key races in the midterm elections last year, fossil fuel money made up a significant portion of GOP election funds.
Across the city last week, other institutions ignored Thunberg and the rising youth revolt, and instead focused on familiar ties to oil giants. On Wednesday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the prominent think tank, hosted BP executives for a panel event on how to best address the climate crisis. The event, a disclosure noted, was “made possible by generous support from BP.”
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets that aims to strengthen coverage of the climate crisis.