Candidates pledge not to take money from ‘climate-disrupting’ companies

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STATE HOUSE — Less than a month after Gov. Charlie Baker signed significant new clean energy legislation, 29 candidates for state office – including eight Democratic lawmakers – have taken a pledge to reject campaign money from 10 major energy corporations.

The pledge, which has been made available to candidates seeking all 200 seats in the Legislature this November, calls on those running for office not to accept donations over $200 from executives, in-house lobbyists or others employed by the “top ten climate-disrupting corporations.”

That list put together by 350 Mass Action includes British Petroleum, Chevron, Eversource, Exxon Mobile, Global Partners, Global Petroleum, Kinder Morgan, National Grid, Shell and Spectra Energy.

“You can see the influence present from the utilities, Spectra Energy and other dirty energy companies. The ultimate goal is to undermine their political influence,” said Craig Altemose, executive director of 350 Mass Action and the Better Future Project.

The pledge put together by 350 Mass Action has been posted to its website, and will be officially launched Wednesday when the group publicizes the initial signers and begins to encourage more to sign on online.

Ten candidates for Senate has so far signed the pledge, including all three Democrats – Andrea Harrington, Rinaldo del Gallo and Adam Hinds – and the one Republican – Christine Canning – running for the open Senate seat in western Massachusetts being vacated by Sen. Benjamin Downing, the co-chair of the Legislature’s energy committee.

Sens. Marc Pacheco, who chairs the Senate Committee on Global Warming, and William Brownsberger and Patricia Jehlen all signed the pledge, as did Jehlen’s Democratic primary rival Leland Cheung.

On the House side, five incumbent Democrats have already signed the pledge: Reps. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, Sean Garballey, Marjorie Decker, Denise Provost and Tim Toomey. All six Democrats seeking the party nomination for retiring Rep. Ellen Story’s seat signed on, as did Keri Thompson and Joan Meschino, two of the candidates running write-in campaigns in former Rep. Garrett Bradley’s South Shore district.

Thompson, who is running under the United Independent Party, is the only other non-Democrat in addition to Canning to sign the pledge.

The pledge reads: “As a candidate for office in Massachusetts, I pledge not to take campaign contributions from climate polluters so that the public can be confident that my votes on energy policy are in the best interests of my constituents.”

350 Mass Action said it arrived at the list of banned campaign donors by looking at which energy companies and utilities are “associated with the largest volumes of campaign contributions” and “have greatest financial interest in influencing energy policy in Massachusetts.”

A News Service search of Office of Campaign and Political Finance records for donors listing their employer as one of the 10 companies targeted by 350 Mass Action turned up mixed results. While no donations were linked to British Petroleum and only $650 could be tied directly to Spectra Energy, Eversource employees contributed at least $35,560 to candidates since January 2015 and National Grid employees gave $22,356.

Donors are only required to list their employee when giving donations of $200 or more, which is part of the reason the pledge sets the threshold at that level. “We also don’t want to discourage rank and file employees from exercising their democratic rights,” Altemose said.

Altemose also acknowledged that many of the early signers of the pledge are already sympathetic to the issues his organization cares about, but he hopes to grow the number of officials taking the pledge.

He also said the pledge was a natural extension of actions being taken around the state already by cities, towns and universities to divest pension investments from fossil fuel holdings.

350 Mass Action describes itself as an organization “dedicated to eliminating the influence of fossil fuel special interests over our political process and advancing a fair and speedy transition beyond fossil fuels toward a 100% clean, renewable, and just energy future.”

Baker in early August signed a new law authorizing the procurement of large-scale hydroelectric and offshore wind power, but the administration also continues to be interested in expanding capacity to bring more natural gas to the region through a pipeline proposed by Spectra, Eversource and National Grid.

Read the full list of candidates to have signed the pledge.

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service