WASHINGTON — Joe Biden is defending himself against criticism that the co-founder of a liquefied natural gas firm is hosting a fundraiser for him despite his pledge not to accept fossil fuel money for his 2020 presidential bid.
The former vice president said Wednesday during a CNN climate town hall series that he's not violating his pledge because Andrew Goldman "is not a fossil fuel executive" according to certain corporate filings.
"He's not listed as one of those executives. That's what we look at," Biden said after being asked about the fundraiser by a supporter of rival Bernie Sanders. "I've kept that pledge. Period."
Some environmental leaders, including several who pushed Democratic candidates to refuse fossil fuel money, say Goldman's involvement in Thursday's fundraiser still violates the spirit of Biden's commitment.
The flap represents the intersection of the climate crisis and campaign finance, two issues in which Biden faces scrutiny from the Democratic Party's increasingly influential progressive flank and its activists who are skeptical of the former vice president's deep establishment ties.
Biden is one 18 Democratic presidential candidates who signed a pledge, crafted by various climate action advocates, "not to take contributions over $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, and PACs and instead prioritize the health of our families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits."
Goldman is managing director of the investment firm Hildred Capital Partners. He's also co-founder of Western LNG, a firm developing a Canadian natural gas facility.
Biden's campaign says Goldman isn't involved in Western LNG's day-to-day operations, though Goldman is featured on the company's website and touted in some of its public statements about the Canada project as "a long-term investor in the liquefied natural gas sector."
David Turnbull, a spokesman for Oil Change US, one of the groups behind the campaign finance pledge, said Goldman's involvement with Biden "may not technically violate the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge as we have defined it." But, Turnbull added, the intent of the pledge is "not to provide loopholes for candidates to exploit."
Biden is not the only top Democratic presidential hopeful who has taken at least some money from fossil fuel sources.
Federal Election Commission records show that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has received donations from various employees of BP, Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil, in addition to smaller firms. Warren, though, depends heavily on small donors and doesn't hold the kind of high-dollar fundraisers like what Goldman will co-host for Biden on Thursday in New York.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, according to FEC records, has received contributions from employees of ExxonMobil and Shell, among others. Harris, like Biden, uses high-dollar events as part of her fundraising strategy.
Barrow reported from Atlanta.