Fact checkers from NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times agree that the claims that the Sanders campaign is making about donations that Hillary Clinton accepted from the fossil fuel industry are misleading.
Sen. Sanders responded to the fact checkers during an interview on CNN’s State Of The Union:
Sanders said, “Well, let the voters decide whether paid lobbyists who represent the fossil fuel industry, 43 of them give maximum personal contributions to the Clinton campaign, and whether or not these same people are out in some cases muddling, trying to bring in even more money. I don’t think that we are distorting reality. That’s the simple reality.”
The New York Times disagree with Sanders on the lobbyist bundling, “Greenpeace also looked at contributions to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign that were donated or bundled by lobbyists who represent the fossil fuel industry, which amounted to about $1.5 million, according to the organization. But that figure still is a small slice of Mrs. Clinton’s fundraising, and it includes lobbyists who represent clients in a range of industries in addition to fossil fuel companies.”
An NPR fact check of the claims found, “The Center for Responsive Politics, parsing Federal Election Commission reports, finds that workers in the oil and gas industries have given Clinton $307,561 so far — compared to, say, $21 million from the securities and investment industry, or $14.4 million from lawyers and law firms. Put another way, the oil and gas money is two-tenths of 1 percent of Clinton’s $159.9 million overall fundraising. It roughly equals the amount Sanders raised every 16 hours in the first quarter of 2016.”
The Washington Post’s fact check found that the Sanders campaign is exaggerating the amount of the donations, “The Sanders campaign is exaggerating the contributions that Clinton has received from the oil and gas industry. In the context of her overall campaign, the contributions are hardly significant. It’s especially misleading to count all of the funds raised by lobbyists with multiple clients as money “given” by the fossil-fuel industry.”
The fossil fuel claims are a slippery slope for Sen. Sanders because his campaign is trying to catch up to Hillary Clinton while maintaining what has made Sanders a successful candidate. Bernie Sanders has been successful because Democratic primary voters view him as honest. However, embracing potentially exaggerated claims that were made by an environmental organization with a clear agenda could blowback on him and make some voters question his honesty.
Embracing the Greenpeace report was a risk that Sen. Sanders had to take because he is losing. If Sanders doesn’t get a campaign changing issue that can propel him to big victory margins in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Sanders is beginning to run out of time and opportunities to win, but if his statements about Clinton’s fossil fuel donations end up costing him votes, it might end up being a regrettable decision for what has thus far been an outstanding presidential campaign.