(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Opinion writer


The Clinton and Sanders campaigns are battling this morning over a moment on the campaign trail yesterday, in which Hillary Clinton appeared to lose her temper in a confrontation with a Greenpeace activist. Clinton lashed out at the Sanders campaign for “lying” about whether she has taken contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

On ABC News moments ago, Sanders reiterated the charge, claiming: “The fact of the matter is Secretary Clinton has taken significant money from the fossil fuel industry. She raises her money with a super PAC. She gets a lot of money from Wall Street, from the drug companies and fossil fuel industry.”

Both campaigns have a point here, and this gets at a series of larger arguments that are arguably more significant than the details of this skirmish.

In the exchange, Clinton retorted her money comes from “people who work for fossil fuel companies,” (emphasis mine), adding: “I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about them”:

NPR fact checked this claim, and found that the contributions are relatively minuscule:

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 one percent of Clinton’s $159.9 million overall fundraising.

That seems to suggest that this money is only from workers at these industries. The Clinton campaign is also claiming this to be the case. A Clinton spokesperson said today: “The simple truth is that this campaign has not taken a dollar from oil and gas industry PACs or corporations. The money in question is from individuals who work for these companies.”

I’ve asked the Sanders campaign whether it disputes this on the facts — whether it disputes that this money comes from workers at these companies, rather than from PACs or corporations — and I’ll update you if I hear back.

It’s possible that the Sanders campaign is referring to donations to the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA, which spends independently of the Clinton campaign. After all, if you look at Sanders’s quote above, it seems to hint at that, without saying it. If so, the Sanders camp might clarify as much.

In some ways, the Clinton campaign has a legitimate beef with the ways the Sanders campaign has been less than forthright about what it is alleging about her and her campaign contributions. Sanders has repeatedly stopped short of claiming outright that Clinton’s economic policy positions are directly influenced by Wall Street money — that she has been corrupted by that money — while clearly trying to leave the impression out there that this is what he’s saying.

Lacking further clarification, Sanders’s suggestion about her oil and gas money seems similar to that. The Sanders camp can clarify whether it is talking merely about contributions from workers in these industries, or whether it is talking about contributions from companies to the pro-Clinton Super PAC. And whichever it is, does Sanders think the money is directly influencing her positions on climate change and clean energy?

The flip side, though, is that Sanders’s broader critique raises fair questions. It is reasonable to ask whether taking contributions from industries such as the fossil fuel or financial industries does inevitably exert undue influence on policy outcomes, by giving people from those industries more access to politicians and, by extension, generally leading politicians to be more inclined to see policy disputes from the industries’ perspective. This is Sanders’s larger argument: that only by breaking the dependence on industry money can the Democratic Party really embrace solutions ambitious enough to match the scale of our challenges. It’s true that Sanders has allowed this argument to stray into innuendo about Clinton, but she could also be addressing these broader arguments more directly. After all, she’d likely confront these questions in the general election as the Dem nominee: If you think Republicans won’t attack her as a stooge of Wall Street, then you haven’t been paying attention.

It’s also reasonable for Sanders to argue that his positions on climate and energy are more ambitious than hers are. However, if Clinton wins the nomination, climate activists will come face to face with the fact that there is a far starker difference between Clinton and the GOP nominee. Fossil fuel money or no, Clinton would work to keep the U.S. engaged in the global climate deal reached in Paris — and would defend and implement Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is key to making that global accord work — while the Republican would do everything possible to undermine both.


UPDATE: The Sanders campaign put out a statement this morning disputing the Clinton camp’s claims, noting that dozens of oil and gas industry lobbyists have given to her campaign and have bundled on her behalf.


* A GOOD JOBS REPORT: The March jobs numbers are in:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 215,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 5.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today….Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 209,000 per month.

Economic writer Neil Irwin comments: “The labor force grew by 1.92 million people in the last 4 months. Strongest since the start of 2000.”

* TRUMP FACES TOUGH FIGHT FOR DELEGATES: Politico reports that some of Trump’s bound delegates are prepared to break with him in later rounds of convention balloting, when they’ll no longer be obliged by the rules to support him:

Trump is poised to suffer an exodus of delegates at a contested convention. Interviews with dozens of delegates, delegate candidates, operatives and party leaders in recent days suggest that more than a hundred delegates — bound by rules and laws to back Trump on a first vote at the July convention in Cleveland — are prepared to break with him on a second ballot.

If Trump falls short of a majority of the delegates, he could still pull over a handful of unbound delegates to win the nomination in the first round of balloting, but if not, all bets are off.

* BRILLIANT DEAL MAKER TRUMP UNHAPPY WITH DELEGATE TEAM: The New York Times reports these choice nuggets from his meeting with RNC chair Reince Priebus yesterday:

When the discussion turned to the wrangling of delegates to the party’s nominating convention…Mr. Priebus explained that states all had different rules governing how they were selected….when Mr. Priebus explained that each campaign needed to be prepared to fight for delegates at each state’s convention, Mr. Trump turned to his aides and suggested that they had not been doing what they needed to do, the people briefed on the meeting said.

Surely a superb deal maker such as Trump would never allow his team to be caught so embarrassingly off guard, would he? Losers.

 * SHOCKINGLY, TRUMP IS SLIDING AMONG WOMEN: CNN digs into its recent polling and finds:

Overall, 73% of female voters in a mid-March CNN/ORC poll said they had a negative view of Trump, just 26% view him positively. That unfavorable number is up 14 points in the last few months: from 59% in December and 67% in late February. Even Republican women, who mostly have favorable views of Trump, are more likely to report unfavorable opinions now than they were a few months ago, 39% unfavorable in March vs. 29% in December.

If Hillary and Trump are the nominees, the Hillary camp will make a serious bid for GOP women, particularly suburbans.

* HILLARY’S BALANCING ACT IN NEW YORK: The Post has an overview of Clinton’s challenges in the New York primary against Sanders, which creates this delicate challenge, as Clinton seeks to pivot to taking on Trump directly, as:

While the former secretary of state’s campaign is eager to pivot to the November general election, aides are also mindful that she does not appear, particularly to Sanders supporters, as if she believes she has clinched the nomination….Aides also say, however, that targeting Trump energizes the base and undermines Sanders by sending a signal to rank-and-file Democrats that she is prepared to take on Trump in the general election.

Sanders has to win big in places like New York to have a chance of overcoming Clinton’s large delegate lead, which gives her some strategic leeway.

* HILLARY SHARPENS ECONOMIC PITCH: Clinton today will journey to upstate New York to unveil a $10 billion proposal to encourage manufacturing to come back to the U.S.:

While most of the state’s population density is downstate…Clinton’s focus in upstate reflects a desire to shore up support in a part of the state that may be a ripe target for Sanders. Sanders has targeted voters in states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin with a message that is critical of free-trade policies that are blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs to international competitors. Upstate New York’s demographics and economics are similar to those states.

This will serve as another test of Clinton’s ability to sell her economic program to blue collar white voters.

* WHAT WILL THE LEFT LEARN FROM OBAMA’S SUCCESSES? Paul Krugman takes stock of Obama’s rising approval ratings, notes that they could reflect the fact that his policies are working, at least to some degree, and aims this conclusion at Sanders supporters:

The 2008 election didn’t bring the political transformation Obama enthusiasts expected, nor did it destroy the power of the vested interests: Wall Street, the medical-industrial complex and the fossil fuel lobby are all still out there, using their money to buy influence. But they have been pushed back in ways that have made American lives better and more secure. The lesson of the Obama years, in other words, is that success doesn’t have to be complete to be very real.

Sanders’s candidacy is premised partly on the notion that Obama-era change was vastly insufficient, because Dems remain in thrall to plutocratic money and because failed to rally the grassroots to break GOP opposition.