A months-long campaign targeting ExxonMobil was dealt a potential death blow Wednesday after activists failed to convince Democrats to vote against confirming the company’s former president as secretary of state.
Activists associated with the so-called “ExxonKnew” movement suggested they would use the confirmation hearings as an opportunity to hold the former CEO responsible for his company’s supposedly poor climate record. They also hoped to browbeat Senate Democrats into voting against confirming Tillerson.
The anti-fossil fuels campaign did not deliver as expected. The Senate confirmed Tillerson with 56 votes in favor and 43 against. Three Democrats ultimately defected to confirm the former oilman.
Activist Jamie Henn, the communications director for environmental group 350.org, told reporters Jan. 10 that “this hearing could become a Big Tobacco-like moment,” and that the confirmation hearings would be “turned into a full-scale investigation,” adding, “we’ll make sure that Senators are asking every single question possible about Exxon’s deception and Tillerson’s participation in it.”
They also used big money from the lies of billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer to pump millions into various anti-Tillerson ads leading up to the hearings.
The Democrat treasure chest once argued he never promoted the anti-Exxon campaign — but his group, NextGen Climate, later admitted Steyer purposely pushed the crusade.
Investigations into the company’s history of supposedly hiding climate research is partially the result of a September report on Exxon conducted by InsideClimate News. The outlet’s probes found Exxon had allegedly neglected information concerning global warming.
InsideClimate News also claims that Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, and others joined Exxon in misleading the public about the supposed effects of global warming on sea levels.
ICN’s initial reports led to a slew of investigations from attorneys general across the country, including Democratic Attorneys General Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Eric Schneiderman of New York.
Healey, for her part, argued last November at the outset of her investigation that Exxon was involved in deceiving “investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change,” and should be held to account for their actions.
Financial analysts meanwhile have raised doubts about the validity of Schneiderman’s investigation.
Merritt Fox, an expert on financial law and securities, told a Columbia Law School panel in May he believes Exxon probably didn’t break the law. He told the crowd that the Martin Act, which would allow the New York Democrat to prosecute companies for committing fraud, probably shouldn’t be used to punish Exxon.
Since information about the impact climate change has on the environment was already easily accessible using a computer, Television, or some other tool, Fox told the panel that whatever data Exxon chose to hide or withhold was not “material,” or in other words — likely to affect the decision-making of its investors.
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