Democratic Donors Withhold Contributions Over Absence of Climate Change from Obama Campaign Message

President Obama is also being urged to use his acceptance speech tonight to reaffirm his 2008 campaign promise to aggressively tackle climate change, but so far the Democrats have not made it an issue at this year’s convention.

Greenpeace activists and supporters along with other non-governmental organizations protest outside the Global Business Day conference in Durban. World talks on climate change struggled to overcome a rift on the future of the Kyoto Protocol with less than three days left to secure a deal.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We’re covering the Democratic National Convention, inside and out, here in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m Amy Goodman.

A group of Democratic donors have announced they’ll withhold some of their financial support from President Obama’s re-election campaign for not speaking out more about climate change. The group of roughly 100 political donors say Obama should directly address this comment by Republican rival Mitt Romney made last week during his acceptance speech in Tampa.

MITT ROMNEY: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama is also being urged to use his acceptance speech tonight to reaffirm his 2008 campaign promise to aggressively tackle climate change, but so far the Democrats have not made it an issue at this year’s convention. Notably absent from this week’s convention speakers are the two cabinet officials most closely linked to dealing with climate change, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. Analysts also say the Democrats have watered down language in the party platform about the issue.

We’re going to go to Washington, D.C., to Betsy Taylor, political consultant and president of Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, who’s working with the donors who are threatening to withhold support from President Obama.

Betsy Taylor, welcome to Democracy Now! Lay out this controversy for us, please.

BETSY TAYLOR: Well, really, the drama here is not so much about the donors trying to withhold money. The real drama is whether or not we deal with this extreme weather and climate change. So, there have been a group of donors. We’ve been organizing actually since the Keystone pipeline fight. Some of us were arrested there. We found each other. And actually, the donors, they know that Obama is our best hope, and Romney and Ryan are really our worst nightmare. We have been working—we’ve sent a letter. We’ve had meetings. We’ve stood up in fundraising events. We’ve lobbied. And our effort is—you know, the donors within this network, some of them are opting to withhold some money. They’re waiting for more leadership. But many actually are maxing out. So the real drama, honestly, is not what the National Journal piece showed or suggested. It’s more whether or not we can turn this thing around in time. So, we are a group of donors, who—and I represent them—who are doing everything we can to support the president and other candidates to lead at the scale necessary. We don’t—we’re running out of time.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the people not present, the speakers—for example, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Steven Chu, as well, Al Gore, of course, the Nobel Prize winner?

BETSY TAYLOR: Yeah. I think it was a missed opportunity, in particular, not to have Lisa Jackson, given who she appeals to—young voters, women, communities of color. She’s a great champion for us. She would have been a phenomenal speaker. And she’s rallying so many young voters around the country. Salazar did speak to climate change, and he should. I mean, Colorado, it’s burn, baby, burn right now. We’re seeing the worst drought in 50 years.

So we believe, as a group of donors, that the issue here--we know that President Obama understands this issue. He is our best hope, along with mayors and governors and senators and congressmen that we’re working for. Our goal is to direct funds, resources, support, to urge him to lead in the way we know he can. So, you know, honestly, we’re really not focused on this internal drama of—you know, we’re not exerting threats. There are some donors who have withheld money and publicly done so.

But really, now we’re trying to rally to say—you know, let’s take this whole thing with the Israel platform thing. You know, in a few weeks, I think it’s going to be forgotten about. But right now, we have five years to turn this thing around on climate, according to the top energy agency in the world. And they’re not talking about it. And when President Obama does not talk about it, the super PACs, the Big Oil, Koch brothers come in, and they are spending, as you know, billions of dollars to shape the message, to say that any action on climate change is a job-killing strategy—to tell lies. So, it’s—you know, the donors, actually, we’ve commissioned a polling, and we’ve commissioned a playbook on how to talk about this. And what we found, this is a winner for him. The president can stand up there and say, you know, what’s good for Big Oil is not good for regular Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mitt Romney’s comments at the convention?

BETSY TAYLOR: The president needs to take a pause in his speech and just say it is unacceptable for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to mock our efforts to address climate change, when just at the same time we’re having the most extreme hurricane hitting the coast. There are parishes right now still under three feet of water that aren’t going to have power for four to six weeks. And the Republicans are standing up. It’s like red meat. People are laughing. They don’t care. And Obama needs to call that out.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think his ties to various companies and just the amount of money both the Republicans and Democrats are trying to raise right now is stopping him from really speaking honestly about climate change?

BETSY TAYLOR: You know, it’s a good question. Why isn’t he talking about it? I think the biggest reason—and this is something that’s plagued this administration—is fear. And I think the fear is really less about some of his, you know, traditional energy supporters and more about the framing on Solyndra. The super PACs, the Koch brothers, they have funded a nonstop messaging machine saying that there was corruption with the clean energy investments and tax credits. I mean, Obama gave 60—you know, he—when we had our economy falling to shreds, he moved $60 billion into clean energy tax credits and programs. This was not insignificant. They attacked hard. It was lies. There have been uncounted hearings on the Hill. There’s no smoking gun. There was no corruption with Solyndra, but it’s been framed that way. So I actually think Obama needs to stand up on that again and not be afraid. He can win on this.

AMY GOODMAN: Betsy Taylor, I want to thank you very much for being with us, political consultant and president of Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions. This is Democracy Now! When we come back from break, a discussion about President Obama, about former President Bill Clinton and his major address last night in support of President Obama, and more. Stay with us.