Keystone XL Pipeline: When Tom Steyer's Money Talks, President Obama Listens

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 25, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

Never mind the Kochs. After assessing who did what bad to America lately, I nominate Tom Steyer for the top of the list.

Last week the billionaire hedge fund manager from San Francisco bought off the White House to the tune of $100 million in order to delay the Keystone XL pipeline decision.

Even the Democrats in Congress are buzzing about it: Steyer -- right now the most influential man in America most people have never heard of -- drove the decision by promising to spend $100 million to help all Dems in the midterm election who vow to defeat the project.

Why this is newsworthy now -- coming, though it is, in the middle of the Florida Legislature's two busiest weeks -- is because polls continue to show that the Obama administration listens to the money talking, not the American people.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Wednesday showed 61 percent of likely voters nationally back creating the Keystone pipeline, 62 percent believe it will help the American economy and fewer than a third (32 percent) think it will hurt the environment.

A day later the American Petroleum Institute turned out a national, more election-focused Harris Poll, saying 95 percent of voters believe the federal government should focus on energy issues, 70 percent describe energy as ‘very important,’ and almost seven in 10 voters (68 percent) report they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports approving Keystone XL.

And next Tuesday Kevin Doyle, executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, will address an 8:30 a.m. press conference in the rotunda on the Capitol's 4th floor. Subject: urging the White House to approve pipeline construction.

Doyle won't be alone. He'll have Jose Felix Diaz, chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee; Tom Feeney, president and CEO, Associated Industries of Florida; Rep. Mike Hill, sponsor of "Florida House Memorial Supporting the Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline," and Beth Richardson, head, Political, Economic and Public Affairs Section, Consulate General of Canada.

What's going on in Florida to protest White House foot-dragging is being repeated in more than a dozen states, particularly those along the pipeline's proposed route.
Who did the administration send to deliver the bad pipeline news to the American public but Obama's new favorite attack dog, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. Wasserman Schultz told the nation Sunday on “Meet The Press,” “I want to make sure the right decision is arrived at and that the president makes that decision carefully and doesn’t factor politics into his decision, which I don’t think he is.”

As if politics isn't factored into every teeny-tiny decision he makes less than seven months before the mid-term elections.

Now hear this: Any theory that the pipeline is an enemy of the environment has crumbled at this point. Two thorough environmental analyses later, State Department experts have concluded that the KXL’s impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, as an editorial in the Washington Post pointed out, "the economic rewards of extracting Canadian oil are too attractive and the options for getting it out of the country are too numerous." 

Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer

Yet, Steyer, who needed to do nothing more to halt a project of such beneficial consequence than open his wallet, tweeted this on April 18: "Good news on Good Friday: the comment period for has been extended. Now @StateDept can address inherent flaws in its past work."

It might surprise you to learn that even Big Labor wasn't -- and still isn't -- pleased with the president's decision.

On the same day as Steyer was tweeting out his "good news," Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA), called Obama's delay “gutless” and a “low blow to the working men and women of our country. ...

“The administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process — and which has nothing to do with the national interest,” O'Sullivan said.

Now we have no pipeline even on the way. American jobs suffer, and whatever economic impact the project might have had on Russia is ignored for the sake of Obama’s political gain.

Alison Lundergan Grimes

Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, the latest Democratic U.S. Senate candidate to call for building the Keystone pipeline.

Holding a $100 million check in his hand, what was Obama to do? He couldn't approve the pipeline before the election and rankle Steyer. On the other hand, rejecting the pipeline could be politically damaging to vulnerable Democrats running this year in conservative-leaning states. The pipeline is a winning issue for them, just as it is for Republicans.

He's handed a major problem to Democrats running for the Senate, and a great, big early Christmas present of an opportunity for the GOP, looking to bounce out Harry Reid and reclaim the chamber.  

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that this well-over-five-year-long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement to the press.

The president has hurt himself on this one. Read the Washington Post's Wednesday editorial, "Keystone XL's continued delay is absurd." The headline says it all -- but for those who have their doubts about the pipeline, read the editorial beginning to end.  It's a cracker.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (7)

Joe Cucchiara
5:59PM APR 27TH 2014
Hey Nancy, before you point your finger, make sure you know where it's been. Get your facts straight! Communication 101!
8:43PM APR 25TH 2014
So let me get this straight:
Despite spending untold treasure on promotion and lobbying (dwarfing Steyers pittance), Harper and TransCanada can't site their pipeline in Nebraska, the reddest of Republican controlled States which overwhelmingly supports the concept...
and you want to give Steyer credit?
The pipeline promoters inexplicable bungling in the Cornhusker State may have given Obama a political opportunity, but it would have been just as politically suspect for Obama to support KXLII at this point (caving in to unions as Democrats always do and making a vain attempt to save a few Senate candidates in the mid-term elections) but the pipeline still wouldn't break ground until Governor Heineman gets out of the way and lets the Nebraska Public Service Commission exercise it's Constitutional responsibility (which no one doubts will result in siting the pipeline).
You have a fine storyline here full of your usual suspects as villains and protagonists, but it has little to do who messed up Keystone XLII.
7:12PM APR 27TH 2014
Nice try, but the "Nebraska problem" has nothing to do with anything. It's just a dodge, an excuse for Steyer and Obama. It's just like your union pals said in the story, “The administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process — and which has nothing to do with the national interest.”
2:41PM APR 25TH 2014
So many Gay-Caballeros lining up to influence elections, with even one of those Democrat contributors from the "Fruit & Nut" State of California using his personal billion dollar fortune to influence FLORIDA elections (a State that's probably 'beneath him' and his fortune to have ever even visited). Stay in California Tommy-boy and we'll even send you Charlie "the tuna" Crist, who needs a patron who understands his idiosyncratic proclivities (and will comply for what you supply...MONEY !)
1:00PM APR 25TH 2014
"....drove the decision by promising to spend $100 million to help all Dems in the midterm election who vow to defeat the project."

Why is that speech and not bribery?

In any case, it seems a waste of money and a certain defeat to Democrats since 68% of voters said they'd be more likely to vote for someone who supports the pipeline. (To me, support or non support of the pipeline wouldn't factor in who gets my vote. Though I would be in the 95% who think government should focus on energy issues as well, the 70 percent who thinks it's ‘very important’.)
8:55PM APR 25TH 2014
It was the US Supreme Court that makes that speech and not bribery.
And I suspect you are right that, polls aside, it will not be KeystoneXLII that decides which chads people poke in the election. It is more a litmus test issue for people , on both sides, who will already vote party line.
At best it will agitate the base, but Senate elections tend to be about local issues and personalities. A thousand temp jobs nationally for itinerant pipefitters just can't be parlayed into a pocketbook issue for many voters (more people would be employed building and operating a large shopping mall in the home district).
Barney Bishop III
10:54AM APR 25TH 2014
Nancy, you hit the nail on the head again!...Obama is despicable and his rhetoric is hollow...he's killing jobs which is why more people are unemployed today than when he came into office...he's destroyed our economy and now he's killing jobs that EVERYONE but a small, vocal minority wants...when Labor and business, Dem's and Repub's support, something is very wrong when what the majority wants is denied...

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