Climate Deniers Boost Pro-Trump Efforts to Cast Doubt on US Election

Climate Deniers Boost Pro-Trump Efforts to Cast Doubt on US Election
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In unusual remarks made during a corporate earnings call today, Friday, November 6, Continental Resources founder and executive chairman Harold Hamm* referred to counting “all legal votes” — a phrase used by President Donald Trump to suggest that some votes cast in the 2020 election are not legitimate. The founder and executive chairman of the Oklahoma-based oil and gas company joined others who dispute mainstream climate science in taking up this language in the wake of this week’s slowly unfolding presidential election.

Finally, I wanted to provide my thoughts on the current state of the election,” Hamm said after discussing Continental Resources’ financial performance. “The election process is not final and we like you are waiting to see the results when all legal votes are counted.”

Fact-checking website Politifact notes that the Trump campaign declined to clarify specifically which, if any, votes President Donald Trump believes were “illegal.” Trump’s unsupported claims of wrongdoing in this year’s elections have proved too much for observers across the political spectrum, including those at Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, which categorized such claims as “lashing out” by Trump.

Hamm hastened to assure investors that Republicans would serve as a bulwark against laws that the oil and gas industry opposes. “While we wait to see the final results of the presidential election, the Senate will more than likely remain in the hands of Republican leadership and the House Republican representation will be strengthened,” he said. “This should serve as a backstop for any legislation that would be harmful for U.S. oil and gas producers.”

Continental’s stock closed down roughly 8 percent, losing a full dollar to end the day at $12.24 a share, down from $13.24 this morning.

Hamm has worked closely with Trump, with the Wall Street Journal reporting in May that Trump had said in videotaped remarks that he “learned more about energy from Harold than anybody else.”

In 2016, during his speech at the Republican National Convention, Hamm cast doubt on the importance of climate change. “Climate change isn’t our biggest problem,” he claimed. “It’s Islamic terrorism.”

Hamm isn’t the only opponent of climate action to insert himself into strife over vote counting in this election.

On Thursday, a group called FreedomWorks for America organized protests at ballot-counting sites in Phoenix, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

FreedomWorks posted photographs of rally attendees in Philadelphia, many not wearing masks, carrying printed signs with messages like “count legal votes” and encouraging people to text the word “stolen” to sign up, with the FreedomWorks logo printed below.

FreedomWorks and its related organizations grew from an organization founded by the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers in the early 1980s and have, over their histories, received millions of dollars in Koch and dark money funding, DeSmog’s database profile of the organizations shows.

FreedomWorks and its related organizations have historically received funding from the Koch network, the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, and others tied to fossil fuels and promotion of climate science denial, DeSmog’s profile indicates.

More recently, the organization appears to have distanced itself from Koch. “While [Citizens for a Sound Economy, one of FreedomWorks’ predecessors] was founded by the Koch brothers in 1984 as special interest group promoting deregulation and was originally affiliated with Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation (CSEF), Koch does not appear active in FreedomWorks itself,” DeSmog’s database notes.

There is evidence that the organization has maintained ties to fossil fuel companies during President Trump’s time in office. In 2019, FreedomWorks received $50,000 from coal company Murray Energy, formerly owned by Bob Murray (recently deceased), bankruptcy filings revealed. Since Trump took office, FreedomWorks Foundation has taken over $384,000 in funding via DonorsTrust, the notorious conduit for dark money (a role so central to its existence that it’s famously been dubbed the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement” by Mother Jones.)  

FreedomWorks — which is often cited as having helped to create the Tea Party movement last decade — also has a long history of promoting climate disinformation. “While FreedomWorks does not have an official statement on climate change, they regularly publish articles on their website questioning the existence of man-made climate change,” DeSmog’s profile indicates.

Charlie Kirk, founder and executive director of the conservative youth activist group Turning Point USA, also called for the counting of “every LEGAL vote” on Twitter. Kirk has also opposed action on climate change (calling the Paris Climate Agreement, which the U.S. formally exited on November 4, a “BAD Deal” on Twitter).

Charlie Kirk has admitted to soliciting funds from the fossil fuel industry,” DeSmog’s database entry on Kirk notes. “He acknowleded in an interview that some donors of [Turning Point USA] ‘are in the fossil-fuel space.’” 

The entry of well-funded organizations into the election fray runs counter to the suggestion that pro-Trump rallies intended to delegitimize the democratic voting process sprang up entirely from the grassroots.

This is definitely not just organic, up-from-the-grassroots disinformation,” Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory told Politico. “There are professionals here who are pushing some of this stuff based upon exactly what is going on in the polls and in the real-world arguments over the election.”

FreedomWorks has not immediately responded to a request for comment.

*Updated 11/10/20: Harold Hamm’s first name was corrected from Howard. DeSmog regrets the error.

Main image: The scene outside of the Convention Center in Philadelphia where the vote count is taking place, November 5, 2020. Credit: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary AssemblyCC BYSA 2.0
Climate Deniers Boost Pro-Trump Efforts to Cast Doubt on US Election
Sharon Kelly is an attorney and freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, National Wildlife, Earth Island Journal, and a variety of other publications. Prior to beginning freelance writing, she worked as a law clerk for the ACLU of Delaware.

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