June 22, 2024

Powerful Senate Democrats have launched an investigation into an alleged quid pro quo offer from Donald Trump to fossil fuel executives.

At a meeting at his Mar-a-Lago home and club last month, the former president reportedly told oil bosses he would immediately roll back dozens of environmental regulations if elected, and requested $1bn in contributions to his presidential campaign. It would be a “deal” for the executives because of the costs they would avoid under him, he reportedly said.

On Thursday morning, the chairmen of two Senate committees each sent letters to eight oil companies and top fossil fuel trade group the American Petroleum Institute.

The letters from Sheldon Whitehouse, the Senate budget committee chairman, and Ron Wyden, the Senate finance committee chair, accused the companies of engaging in a quid pro quo with Trump and requested additional details about the meeting.

“As Mr Trump funnels campaign money into his businesses and uses it as a slush fund to pay his legal fees, Big Oil has been lobbying aggressively to protect and expand its profits at the expense of the American taxpayer,” wrote the senators. “And now, emboldened by impunity, Mr Trump and Big Oil are flaunting their indifference to US citizens’ economic well-being for all to see.”

Reached for comment, Andrea Woods, a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute, said the investigation is an “election-year stunt to distract from America’s need for more energy, including more oil and natural gas, to power our economy and combat persistent inflation”.

She added: “API meets with candidates and policymakers to discuss the need for sound energy policies, and this meeting was no different.”

Last week, Jamie Raskin, who chairs the House oversight committee, also launched a House oversight investigation into the companies about the reported offer. But unlike Whitehouse and Wyden, Raskin does not have the power to subpoena companies if they do not reply to his inquiry, because Republicans control the House of Representatives.

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Trump has continued to ask oil companies for campaign funding amid scrutiny of his relationship with the fossil fuel industry. On Wednesday he attended a fundraiser luncheon hosted by three oil bosses at a five-star hotel in Houston, including two from companies reportedly represented at the Mar-a-Lago meeting.

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