Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been removed from the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge after a Sludge investigation found that he accepted “dozens” of donations from oil and gas executives. The pledge was created by Oil Change USA to hold politicians accountable for taking contributions from major gas corporations by requiring that signees reject donations over $200 from any company who deals with fossil fuels as a business. Sludge and Oil Change USA reached out to O’Rourke’s office, but neither have received any word back.
Reports that O’Rourke violated the agreement arose on Dec. 10, and he was officially removed from the list on Tuesday, Dec. 18, according to Oil Change USA’s strategic communications director David Turnbull. Although O’Rourke took money from oil and gas executives without reporting his refunding them, he hasn’t taken money from PAC donations. That’s what makes Turnbull think that O’Rourke interpreted the pledge as only rejecting money from PACs, not executives.
If that were the case, you’d think O’Rourke’s office would be quick to respond and apologize for the misunderstanding. It didn’t. The pledge is clear in its wording: It states that “a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives or front groups of fossil fuel companies—companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution or sale of oil, gas or coal.”
Furthermore, any politician who wants to dismantle fossil fuel and promote environmental welfare wouldn’t take contributions from oil and gas representatives, regardless of whether it’s a PAC or an executive. To put this in perspective, Sludge reports that “out of all federal candidates in the 2018 election cycle, Democratic Texas representative and 2018 Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke had the second-highest total of donations linked to the oil and gas industry.”
Yet many have rose-tinted lenses on for a politican some call the spitting image of Obama. O’Rourke is a hopeful candidate in the 2020 presidential campaign and, though he was the darling underdog in Texas’ midterm elections, this presents a major issue. Look how Turnbull talks about the misstep: “While we are pleased he hasn’t taken fossil fuel PAC money, he needs to go further in order to be in compliance with the full No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. We hope to speak with members of Beto’s organization to encourage Beto to sign on to the full No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, including rejecting major contributions from top executives of fossil fuel companies.”
He treats O’Rourke with a soft understanding we can’t afford right now. Sludge’s in-depth investigations of O’Rourke’s oil and gas contributions show that he accepted about $430,000 from executives as of Oct. 17, accounting for .62 percent of his total $69.2 million fundraising haul. This is money that he can do without. If O’Rourke wants to lead the country, voters need to know if the green in his pocket is more important than the green of our planet.