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Clinton Foundation Urged to Return Exxon Money by Growing Coalition of Activists and Celebrities (Video)

Coming on the heels of a massive national investigation launched by several state attorneys general into whether ExxonMobil intentionally deceived investors and the public over climate change, activists gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to release an open letter urging the Clinton Foundation to return more than $1 million it has received from the oil giant.


The letter’s signatories include actors Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo and climate activists Tim DeChristopher and Lennox Yearwood, and 15 nonprofit groups, including Food & Water Watch and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The letter, which is addressed to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, states:

We call upon the Clinton Foundation to publicly disclose the dates and amounts of ExxonMobil donations it has received over the years, and to return that money to the company. Further, the Foundation should announce it will no longer accept donations from ExxonMobil in the future.
Finally, we urge the Foundation to consider doing the same for donations it has received from other fossil fuel corporations. Such steps by a foundation as well-known and impactful as the Clinton Foundation would send a clear and much-needed signal to the world that this is the time, right now, when we must step up and take action in defense of our severely stressed planet, the Earth, our only home.

"ExxonMobil is a company that has been fighting efforts to address the climate crisis for over 25 years," the signatories write. "This includes spending $30 million to support groups whose basic purpose is to encourage doubt and denial about the facts of climate change. Given that [the Clinton Foundation] does work to fight climate change, we are writing to urge you to return the more than $1 million that your foundation has received from ExxonMobil in recent years."

"Our request today is direct, simple, and imminently doable for a philanthropy that gives away hundreds of millions of dollars per year," said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the CCAN Action Fund. "Returning ExxonMobil’s money sends the right signal to American citizens and the world at a time when Antarctic ice is imploding, seas are rising, and extreme weather is battering the four corners of the world."

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Environmental and faith leaders gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to unveil their letter urging  the Clinton Foundation to cut ties with Exxon. (L-R): Lise Van Susteren, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate; Catherine Thomasson, Physicians for Social Responsibility; Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch; and Mike Tidwell, CCAN Action Fund (image: ClintonsDivest.org)

Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch and the Food & Water Action Fund, said at the press conference: "When future historians give their verdict on the 21st century, Exxon will be a top contender for committing the worst crimes against the Earth, from the devastating Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska to funding a disinformation campaign focused on casting doubt on climate change."

Another letter signer, Lydia Avila, executive director of the Energy Action Coalition, said, "Our coalition works with young people around the country who are deeply concerned about their futures in an increasingly hotter and more unstable world. If the Clinton Foundation gave leadership to the effort to stabilize our climate by cutting all ties with ExxonMobil, youth worldwide would take notice."

The influence the gas, oil and coal industries wield over politicians has come into strong focus in the Democratic primary race, with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders criticizing Clinton for accepting fossil fuel contributions. Last month, Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs issued a statement after the former New York senator said she was "sick of the Sanders campaign lying about" contributions she received from the fossil fuel industry.

The Sanders campaign statement said, in part:

The truth is that Secretary Clinton has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil, gas and coal industry. According to an analysis by Greenpeace, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her super PAC have received more than $4.5 million from the fossil fuel industry.

Criticism of Clinton's connections to the fossil fuel industry has been mounting. Last month, author Naomi Klein rebuked the former New York senator for not taking action on climate when she was secretary of state. "I don't trust her on climate at all," Klein told Al Jazeera. "As secretary of state, when she had a huge megaphone to make this an issue, to show that she understands the connections between human security and climate, she didn't use the megaphone."

The open letter unveiled Thursday follows announcements by the Rockefeller Family Fund and Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, who serves as the co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, about their divestment of shares in ExxonMobil due to the company's negative impact on the climate.

The fund said that because of the long-established threat posed to the planetary ecosystem by fossil fuel extraction and use, "there is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons," calling Exxon "morally reprehensible."

Goodwin, who is the great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller Sr., founder of Standard Oil Company, from which ExxonMobil was created, told me, "In the long run, producers of fossil fuels will have to lose. The only question is how much the people and ecologies of the world will lose before our economies cease to make the situation worse."

The Clinton Foundation's stated mission is "to improve global health and wellness ... and help communities address the effects of climate change." That contradictory stance was called out by Catherine Thomasson, director of Physicians for Social Responsibility and signatory of the letter, during Thursday's press conference:

The Clinton Foundation helps millions of poor people all over the world who are struggling with poor health. That’s good. But ExxonMobil’s historic efforts to deny climate change have hurt many of these same people. One billion people already don’t have access to safe drinking water and global warming will more than double that in the next decades. The Clinton Foundation should give back Exxon’s money.

Read the full text of the letter and watch the press conference:

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