Meet The Saudi Lobbyist Targeting John Fetterman
Apr 16, 2022 Andrew Perez

Oil Mogul Bankrolls Attempt To Buy Democratic Primary

To crush Nina Turner, oil mogul taps strategic petroleum reserve of cash for Shontel Brown.
Oil Mogul Bankrolls Attempt To Buy Democratic Primary
Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) during the 2021 congressional special election in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

A super PAC bankrolled by a fossil fuel magnate is launching last-minute ads to try to crush the congressional candidacy of a leading proponent of a Green New Deal as scientists warn that oil and gas emissions are making the planet unlivable. If successful, the gambit would deliver an intimidating message from the fossil fuel industry to other Democratic candidates pressing the government to address the climate crisis.

One month after Samson Energy mogul Stacy Schusterman poured $2 million into DMFI PAC, the group purchased TV ads starting Monday to boost Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) in her primary campaign rematch against former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner in a newly redrawn Cleveland congressional district. The primary election date is May 3.

Last year, DMFI PAC spent $1.9 million attacking Turner and promoting Brown, helping the latter win the seat in a special election. The group also spent $1.4 million attacking Sanders during his 2020 campaign.

Turner, who co-chaired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (Ind.-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign, has been campaigning for a Green New Deal and pressing the Biden administration to ban fracking. Brown has declined to co-sponsor some of House Democrats’ most high-profile climate legislation, including the Climate Emergency Act — even after United Nations scientists’ recent dire warning about the crisis.

While Brown’s campaign website says she supports “the principles laid out in the Green New Deal,” she has not co-sponsored the measure in Congress.

Schusterman chairs Oklahoma-based Samson Energy, whose website describes it as a company that “was formed to allow the Schusterman family to remain in the oil and gas exploration and production business following their sale of Samson Investment Company in 2011.” The company has been one of the country’s largest per-well emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.

Schusterman’s donations to DMFI PAC accounted for nearly 70 percent of the $2.9 million in funding that the organization raised in the first quarter this year, between January and March. Overall, since 2019, she has donated $3.4 million to the super PAC, which publicly bills itself as a pro-Israel advocacy organization.

DMFI PAC’s president Mark Mellman runs the Mellman Group, a polling firm whose website says its clients have included corporate health care interests like health insurers Aetna and Blue cross Blue Shield, drug industry lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and hospital lobby American Hospital Association.

The race has also drawn pro-Brown spending from a billionaire whose fortune came from the cryptocurrency industry, which has become a significant driver of carbon emissions.

As The Lever recently reported, Brown has additionally received support from the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, despite her decision to join the corporate New Democrat Coalition’s caucus, too.

In February, Brown spoke at a third anniversary event for DMFI PAC.

“I look forward to continuing my work with my colleagues and DMFI to deepen support in our party for a strong U.S. Israel relationship,” she said. “As I do so, I continue to be grateful for your support, your leadership, and your advocacy.”


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