Democratic candidate heavily invested in crude oil, despite claiming to be an environmental champion

Democratic candidate heavily invested in crude oil, despite claiming to be an environmental champion

Harley Rouda, a California businessman running for Congress in California’s 48th district, has posited himself as the environmental choice to take down Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), winning the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) endorsement just last week. But financial disclosures reviewed by ThinkProgress show that Rouda, who has pledged not to take money from the oil industry and has vowed to support renewable energy like wind and solar, was, as of 2017, heavily invested in crude oil.

According to Rouda’s August 2017 financial disclosure report, he owned as much as half a million dollars in shares of Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil stocks, a managed futures fund pegged to the price of crude oil. Rouda’s campaign website, by contrast, says he’s committed to protecting the California coastline from offshore oil drilling.

“Voters in coastal California need to see and hear that Harley Rouda is committed to protecting our coastline from off-shore oil drilling,” a red boxed section of his website says. “Harley Rouda will move Orange County forward by investing in clean energy and green-tech jobs. While Donald Trump and Dana Rohrabacher want to take us backwards with off-shore oil drilling, Harley Rouda will support renewable energy like wind and solar.”

In a statement to ThinkProgress, a spokesperson for Rouda, Michael McLaughlin, said Rouda divested from the fund last year, but couldn’t give a specific date, saying Rouda believed it was in November or December. Rouda announced his intent to run for the seat in March of last year.

Screenshot of Rouda's August 2017 financial disclosure form
Screenshot of Rouda's August 2017 financial disclosure form

“Harley Rouda has made environmental protection and fighting climate change a central issue of this campaign,” McLaughlin said in an email. “At no point has Harley invested in Big Oil. Throughout the campaign Harley has pledged to not take money from Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or the gun industry.”

McLaughlin also highlighted the fact that Rouda was endorsed by the Sierra Club. Last Friday, the DCCC also endorsed Rouda, saying in a statement that he was the “strongest Democrat in this race.” Rouda was added to the committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which gives him more access to DCCC resources as they attempt to flip the district.

The announcement followed a poll released by the Rouda campaign showing Rouda, former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Bough, and fellow Democrat and stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead vying for second place behind Rohrabacher. All three candidates sat around 13 percent in the poll with Rohrabacher at 31 percent.

A poll from Keirstead’s campaign also had Rohrabacher with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Baugh with 15 percent, Keirstead at 14 percent, and Rouda at 13 percent.

The possibility of a disaster in California’s “jungle primary” system — which puts all candidates on the ballot and sends top two vote-getters to the general, regardless of party affiliation — likely motivated the DCCC’s endorsement, but some in the party have raised questions about the decision to get behind Rouda.

Earlier this year, it was Keirstead who earned the California Democratic Party’s endorsement.

“The California Democratic Party is proud to support Hans Keirstead, in part because he is running a positive campaign focused on connecting with voters, not using scorched-earth tactics,” state party communications director John Vigna said in an email to the OC Register in February. “Mr. Rouda might enjoy more support if he emulated that approach.”

Not long after Rouda declared his candidacy, he came under fire for having donated $1,000 to Republican John Kasich during last year’s presidential election, as well as for his donations of more than $9,000 to Republican congressional candidates between 1993 and 2007. He gave nothing to Democratic candidates during that time.

“I am a registered Democrat, but before that I was an Independent, and before that, yes, I was a Republican,” Rouda wrote in a Facebook post at the time. “I shifted my Party registration because, frankly, my views were far more in line with the Democratic party on every issue.”

He went on, writing, “We gave to John Kasich because we have known the Kasichs for nearly 30 years, because they are personal friends — not because he is someone who I share a political ideology with — and because I wanted to stop Donald Trump and his divisive campaign. For President, I supported Hillary Clinton.”

When the DCCC decided to endorse Rouda last week, the state party chairman, Eric Bauman, warned the committee not to attack Keirstead.

“Throughout our partnership, I have been consistently clear on one key point: when CDP delegates endorse a candidate, that candidate is the official candidate of the Party, and the DCCC should tread carefully in openly supporting a different candidate,” Bauman said in a statement. “California Democratic activists value our independence and the grassroots nature of our endorsement process. Decisions that undercut the independence or our endorsed candidates have the potential to be extraordinarily counterproductive.”

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