Senior White House officials and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are set to meet this week with Tom Steyer, an environmental activist pledging to pump up to $100 million into the November midterm elections, as part of a new campaign to promote President Obama's green agenda.
“On Wednesday, senior White House leadership and Secretary Lew will meet with former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, Cargill CEO Greg Page, and Tom Steyer [to] discuss the results of their soon-to-be-released Risky Business report -- which assesses the economic risks of climate change,” a White House official said, previewing the meeting.
The gathering between the big-money donor and senior White House officials is likely to draw criticism from watchdog groups, which have accused Obama of embracing the pay-to-play politics he once so actively decried.
However, liberals see Steyer as a deep-pocketed ally who can counter the massive amounts of money being donated to conservative candidates ahead of November’s elections.
And White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday insisted that administration officials had "no misgivings" about hosting the mega-donor, saying the meeting is devoted to policy — and has nothing to do with Steyer’s contributions to left-leaning politicians.
According to the White House official, Lew and senior Obama advisers John Podesta and Valerie Jarrett and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Kathryn Sullivan and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate will meet Tuesday with insurance industry leaders to discuss the “economic consequences of increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather.”
Obama on Wednesday is the featured speaker at the League of Conservation Voters’ Annual Capital Dinner.
The president has made climate change one of the central issues of his second-term agenda by pushing new Environmental Protection Agency rules to limit carbon emissions from power plants. The Supreme Court on Monday largely upheld those rules but said the agency could not require pre-construction permits just because a facility would emit greenhouse gases.
The controversial centerpiece of Obama’s environmental agenda is expected to face a barrage of future court challenges.
The president, however, is devoting more of his time and political capital to climate change — and he recently mocked congressional opponents of his environmental plans.
“Today's Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change,” Obama said during his commencement address at the University of California-Irvine this month.
“They will tell you it is a hoax, or a fad," he added. "One member of Congress actually says the world is cooling. There was one member of Congress who mentioned a theory involving 'dinosaur flatulence' — which I won’t get into.”
This article was posted at 12:01 a.m. and has since been updated.