Damning Report Clearly Displays Ernst Raking In Big Oil Contributions While Iowa Farmers and Producers Pay for her Broken Promises

A stunning new report from Iowa Starting Line revealed that while Senator Joni Ernst was spouting empty promises to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard, she was simultaneously raking in “thousands of dollars from a large oil company” abusing the RFS to boost its corporate profits by $100 million.

It gets worse. Ernst’s campaign checks were being signed by a “leader among oil company executives” working to roll back the RFS.

The new scrutiny comes as Senator Ernst is under fire for her vote to anoint fossil fuel lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as head of the EPA – an oil industry ally who has doled out dozens of RFS waivers at the expense of Iowa’s farm economy. Now, as Wheeler considers 52 unprecedented gap-year waiver requests, Ernst is refusing to demand his immediate resignation and explain why she voted to confirm him in the first place. 

While Senator Ernst continues to cash in from her loyalty to the oil industry, 9 Iowa biofuels plants have closed and farm bankruptcies have hit an eight-year high.

“Senator Ernst’s promise to protect Iowa’s farmers is full of nothing but sludge. Ernst is all too happy to boost her campaign with tainted contributions from her Big Oil donors, who profit from these secret RFS waivers while Iowa farms and biofuels plants have to shut their doors,” said Jeremy Busch, Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson. “Senator Ernst promised to be different, but once again she’s stooped to the very worst of Washington politics: throwing her own constituents under the bus in order to rake in contributions from corporate special interests.” 

Iowa Starting Line: IA-Sen: Anti-RFS Oil CEO Donated Thousands To Joni Ernst

By: Elizabeth Meyer

June 30, 2020

Key Points: 

  • At the same time Sen. Joni Ernst is promoting her tough talk against the Environmental Protection Agency and its antagonism toward the ethanol industry, campaign finance records show the Iowa senator has accepted thousands of dollars from a large oil company that is skirting a renewable fuels law.
  • Between 2014 and 2019, Federal Election Commission filings show Ernst received $9,000 from the political action committee and CEO of Tesoro Corp., also known as Andeavor, one of the nation’s largest oil refining companies.
  • In April 2018, Reuters reported that Andeavor — which merged with Marathon Petroleum in 2018 — received Renewable Fuel Standard small refinery waivers for three of its refineries[.]
  • The Iowa Biofuels Association called out Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley directly, asking them to “help us protect the RFS from this insidious attack.”
  • Accepting campaign donations from oil executives and their PACs is not new for Ernst, but given her rhetoric around Wheeler and the 85 small refinery exemptions granted to oil refining companies during the Trump Administration, accepting campaign contributions from a known RFS opponent could complicate her pro-ethanol message.
  • In 2014, [Andeavor CEO Gregory] Goff was a leader among oil company executives who penned a letter to then-President Obama urging him to sign off on a proposed rule “that would roll back the nation’s biofuel blending targets.”
  • Theresa Greenfield, Ernst’s Democratic opponent in the U.S. Senate race, has made the Wheeler controversy part of her campaign, recently calling on him to resign and asking Ernst to join her in that plea.
  • “Everybody should be asking: Sen. Ernst, why did you vote for Andrew Wheeler to head the EPA?” Greenfield asked. “For me, one of the reasons I think is because she’s accepted over $400,000 in donations, campaign donations and contributions, from Big Oil.”
  • Iowa Democrats also have pointed out past statements she made on the RFS during her first Senate campaign. In 2014, Ernst’s campaign told news outlets that “from a philosophical standpoint, she does not believe in taxpayer subsidies” but would “passionately stand in defense of the RFS” until federal subsidies were ended across the board.