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New Republic - September 6, 2019

After years of largely ignoring climate change, CNN’s seven-hour marathon forum poured a Gatorade bath of climate content all over America’s head. It was neither pretty, nor fun. And Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presidential front-runner, emerged from it with a major metaphorical black eye, to match his physically bloodied one.

In the hours leading up to the climate forum, The Intercept reported that Biden planned to attend a fundraiser co-hosted by fossil fuel executive Andrew Goldman, who co-founded the natural gas company Western LNG. One of the forum’s attendees, a 27-year-old Ph.D. student from Northwestern University named Isaac Larkin, was armed with the story and lying in wait for the former vice president. “How can we trust you to hold these corporations and executives accountable for their crimes against humanity,” he asked him, “when we know that tomorrow you are holding a high-dollar fundraiser hosted by Andrew Goldman, a fossil fuel executive?”

Biden’s effort to defend himself stumbled from bad to worse. After initially denying that Goldman is a fossil fuel executive, Biden claimed he “didn’t realize” Goldman founded Western LNG. Biden campaign Spokesperson Symone Sanders joined the pushback on Twitter, arguing that Goldman was not an “executive” because he is “not involved” in the firm’s “day to day operation” and is “not on the board of the company, nor the board of the portfolio company.”

... The problem is far bigger than Joe Biden. Other candidates in the race have gamely attempted the same two-step, violating pledges to reject specialinterest money and hosting big-dollar fund-raisers. The machinery of the Democratic Party is primed to run on big piles of cash and showers its favor upon those candidates who reliably stack the green. Even as voters demand that the party shed the influence of plutocratic interests, much of the shift toward rejecting the status quo has been rhetorical, not substantive. The Democrats literally demand “dues,” or a certain amount in funds raised, from the congressional committee chairs who raise those funds from the industries they regulate—and they dole out the parliamentary perks to those who deliver the goods.

Climate activist groups, like the Sunrise Movement, have lately had some success pushing candidates on climate change. Money tainted by fossil fuel profits is arguably worse than many other kinds of big bad donations, in part because of the dramatic urgency posed by climate crisis. The optics of heading from a climate forum to a fossil fuel executive’s fund-raiser are awful. And this kind of conversation—one in which the Democratic front-runner has to explain and defend his attendance at a fundraiser put on by a fossil fuel executive—is beneficial to the larger project of disentangling the Democratic Party from the control of the rich. (Though CNBC reported that Biden’s allies expected the fundraiser to go ahead as planned, with Goldman co-hosting.)

But don’t miss the bigger picture. It would be only slightly less appalling if Biden had gone straight to a fancy fundraiser with someone heavily invested in the pharmaceutical status quo, where poor people die from lack of access to drugs; or the hospital status quo, where hospitals can sue patients for the crime of getting sick; or the housing status quo, where housing and tenants are squeezed for the profits of investors. ...
Read full article at New Republic