Congress of Racial Equality spokesman Niger Innis

Big Oil group plays race card on Solyndra

The Exxon-funded Congress of Racial Equality says Obama's "green jobs" agenda hurts black workers


Justin Elliott
September 17, 2011 4:01AM (UTC)

A group with ties to the oil industry has launched a campaign to play up the Solyndra story as a way to discredit the concept of "green jobs" and renewable energy in general.

The group behind the new effort is the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which was once a key player in the civil rights movement but in recent decades has become known for embracing right-wing politics and operating at the behest of big corporate funders. Among those is ExxonMobil, which has given money to CORE through its foundation.

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Solyndra is the solar power company that won half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees pushed by the Bush and Obama administrations before filing for bankruptcy last month; last week its California headquarters was raided by the FBI. The case has quickly become a cause celebre on the right, with some congressional Republicans arguing that the case shows that the very concept of "green jobs" is a fraud.

And that's exactly the argument that CORE makes in an ad in the Washington Informer, a weekly newspaper serving the D.C.-area black community.

"Unemployment amongst African-Americans is over 16 percent. So why does President Obama continue to spend taxpayers’ dollars on a radical green agenda that stifles innovation and destroys jobs at home and abroad?" the ad says, before moving on to Solyndra:

Green Bankruptcy: Solyndra, a California-based manufacturer of solar power panels, received $535 million in low interest loans from the Obama administration. On August 31, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and immediately laid off 1,100 employees worsening America’s record unemployment figures.

CORE describes the ad as part of a "campaign." Readers are asked to contact members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose Annual Legislative Conference is next week, "to oppose President Obama’s plan to lead taxpayers to the unemployment line motivated by a green agenda."

CORE spokesman Niger Innis tells Salon that the group intends to continue the campaign during the presidential election, but specific plans are not set.

CORE has a history of financial ties to Big Oil. Innis said the group has not received money from ExxonMobil since 2008, and that no other oil companies currently fund CORE -- "but they should," he added. The details of CORE's funding are not public.

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Tax filings offer some detail of the previous relationship; the ExxonMobil Foundation gave $75,000 to CORE in 2005, for example.. $25,000 of that was for "global climate change environmental outreach" and the remaining $50,000 was for "general operating support."

Innis characterized Exxon's donations to CORE over the years as "a pittance" and said the group is motivated by its values, not the agendas of its corporate donors.

CORE has long carried water for the oil industry. Its officials have argued that climate change is not caused by humans. In 2008, the group was involved in a challenge to the official listing of polar bears as a threatened species, a listing seen as a threat by the industry.

Here is the ad:

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CORE Washington Informer Ad


Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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