[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind Rep. Ron Kind is a founding and ongoing member of the Wall Street funded corporate front group Third Way. — Mark L. Taylor]
By Kate Aranoff
The Intercept (9/6/19)
THE PROGRESSIVE POLICY Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank that grew out of the party’s pro-business wing in the 1980s and ’90s, received $50,000 from Exxon Mobil in 2018 via its parent organization, the Third Way Foundation, according to the oil giant’s 2018 Worldwide Giving Report.
Exxon Mobil did not return The Intercept’s multiple requests for comment. In an email, PPI Executive Director Lindsay Lewis said the money was used for general support and that “we only accept general support funding from corporate interests, we do not do paid for work/research or have any donor run programs.”
Lewis also confirmed that this is the first time Exxon Mobil has donated to the Third Way Foundation.
$50,000 is not an enormous amount of money either for PPI or Exxon Mobil. But it may well signal a shift in the fossil fuel industry’s relationship to climate politics.
Though it’s a first, PPI’s new donor isn’t so dramatic a shift from its fundraising record. The Intercept’s Akela Lacy has also found that PhRMA — the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — has annually donated between $25,000 and $75,000 to the Third Way Foundation since 2009, upping its donation to $265,000 in 2016 — the same year that Medicare for All, which the trade group and PPI both oppose, entered the national spotlight. Donations dipped back to normal levels in 2017, although documents were not yet available for 2018 when the piece was published in late April.
Rebranding the fossil fuel industry spiel
In the last couple years, Exxon has taken up softer messaging on climate than either the Koch brothers or the Mercer family. With business all over the world, Exxon — like every other multinational oil company — is well-accustomed to operating in environments where denying the reality of the climate emergency outright is politically unthinkable. As climate concerns spike around the U.S., the company is still plenty opposed to environmental regulations and the lawsuits being lobbed its way from climate-vulnerable communities and attorneys general, who are each calling into question Exxon’s rule in fueling both the climate crisis and misinformation campaigns about it. Rather than paying people to say that there’s no problem at all, it can rebrand as a good-faith actor in the climate fight with paeans to carbon capture technology, low-carbon fuels (algae!), and carbon taxes that also conveniently exempt it from some of the lawsuits and regulations it’s most worried about. The decades of climate denial Exxon helped fund — and now the Trump administration — have dragged the national debate on climate change so far into the gutter that there are influential liberals willing to give the company credit simply for not denying the science.
This all dovetails well with a centrist approach to climate politics that’s long sought common ground with industry and harbors both temperamental and ideological opposition to big, confrontational proposals like the Green New Deal. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )