Where Was Exxon Ernst When Iowa Really Needed Her to ‘Stand In Support’ of the RFS?
Will the Real Joni Ernst Please Stand Up: One Minute Ernst Is ‘Philosophically Opposed’ to the RFS and Headlining a Big Oil Fundraiser, The Next She’s ‘Standing In Support’ of the RFS at the Iowa State Fair
Washington DC (August 8, 2014) – In response to the Joni Ernst event today at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to ‘renew her support for a strong RFS’, pro-ethanol group Americans United for Change has two questions: Where has Ernst been and why should we believe her now? For months, Ernst has stressed her ‘philosophical opposition’ to the Renewable Fuel Standard and did not bother to submit a comment when the EPA was asking for input on their proposed 2014 rule scaling back the RFS. Now six months after the EPA’s open comment period ended, Ernst is suddenly the RFS’s biggest fan. The timing of Ernst’s pro-RFS event is convenient as it follows a week of bad headlines about her cozy relationship with Big Oil.
First came the revelation that Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute were hosting a ritzy fundraiser for Ernst in Washington. Then came Ernst’s admission that she’s not ‘uncomfortable’ taking campaign money from Big Oil in response to an Americans United for Change radio ad questioning whether Ernst stands with Iowa jobs or Big Oil’s bottom line. Ernst’s campaign further clarified her position: “In a perfect world, in a free market, [Ernst] would support doing away with (the RFS), but that’s not the case.” Then came the news that Ernst was toasted at another fundraiser, this time with like-minded Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), co-author of the Renewable Fuel Standard Repeal Act.
Jeremy Funk, Communications Director, Americans United for Change: “Joni Ernst’s out-of-the-blue pro-RFS event today smacks of desperation and inauthenticity. This is someone who regularly bashed the RFS during her primary. This is someone who admits she’s not ‘uncomfortable’ taking Big Oil money hand over fist at the same time they spend millions of dollars to put ethanol out of business and kill 73,000 Iowa jobs. This is someone who just this weekend was rubbing elbows with Senator Ted Cruz, a guy who is actively pushing anti-ethanol legislation that would put a Texas-sized dent in Iowa’s economy. And now Ernst wants Iowa voters to believe she’s been a champion for ethanol all along? It’s an issue of credibility, and Joni Ernst is running on empty.”
A Timeline of Joni Ernst’s Waffles on the RFS:
- December 16, 2013: In Response to Direct Question About the RFS, Ernst Responded: “We Want People To Choose The Products That Work For Them And Not Have them Mandated By The United States Government.” During a December 2013 Republican candidate forum, GOP Senate candidates were asked by an audience member, “The EPA has proposed changes in the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014. As a candidate I would like your opinion on what the Renewable Fuel Standard has meant to [inaudible], but then also as a Senator, what you see your role is and what you believe you could do to make a difference on the Renewable Fuel Standard.” Ernst responded: “there’s a number of things, a number of industries, out there that we need to look at, but I agree that it does have to be free market driven. I think that that is very important also, and we will get to that point someday and I’m certain of it. We want people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government, and we are well on our way.” [Republican Jewish Coalition Forum, 12/16/13]
- December 29, 2013: Ernst’s Position Published That All Energy Subsidies Should Be Ended “Across The Board.” In a December 2013 op-ed published in the Sioux City Journal, former Iowa Republican State Senator Christopher Rants wrote: “I contacted the campaigns of Young, Ernst and Whitaker over Christmas and asked a simple question: ‘Does your candidate support or oppose the RFS?’ … Team Ernst replied: “Joni Ernst does not believe the government should pick winners and losers in our economy, and therefore, from a philosophical standpoint, she does not believe in taxpayer subsidies. However, she believes if we were to end these subsidies, it would have to be done across the board, for every sector at the exact same time – meaning until and unless that day comes, Joni will passionately stand in defense of RFS.” [Sioux City Journal, op-ed, 12/29/13]
- Jan 28, 2014: The Open Comment Period Closed on the EPA’s Proposed Rule Scaling Back the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program. While Congressman Bruce Braley submitted a number of comments months ahead of the deadline, Joni Ernst appears to have submitted none.
- March 7, 2014: Ernst States She Is Philosophically Opposed to All Energy Subsidies. In response to WHO-TV reporter Dan Winters question about her position on the Renewable Fuel Standard, Ernst stated:, “Well I stand behind the Renewable Fuel Standard and I’ve never wavered on that. Philosophically I’m opposed to subsidies but I’m not going to do something that puts Iowa at risk and so keeping our renewable feel standards where they are, I think, is very important.” [WHO-TV, 4/7/14]
- June 10, 2014: Americans United for Change takes out a full page ad in the Des Moines Register and the Cedar Rapids Gazette calling on Ernst to clarify her muddy RFS position.
- July 17, 2014: It is reported that the family of billionaire oil baron Koch brothers maxed out their contributions to Ernst’s campaign, on top of the over $20,000 the Koch donor network has so far funneled to her campaign coffers.
- July 28, 2014: Americans United for Change airs radio ad in Iowa urging Ernst to put Iowa jobs before Big Oil’s bottom when it’s revealed she is to be toasted at a Washington DC fundraiser hosted by Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute.
- July 28, 2014: Ernst Says She’s Not ‘Uncomfortable’ Taking Campaign Money From Big Oil [WHO-TV, June 28, 2014]
- § July 29, 2014: Ernst out-of-nowhere sends a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy “Urge[ing] McCarthy to Address Troubling Reports of Possible Cuts to the RFS.”
- July 30, 2014: Ernst spokesperson clarifies position: “In a perfect world, in a free market, she would support doing away with (the RFS), but that’s not the case.” [Globe Gazette, July 30, 2014]
- July 30, 2014: Ernst Is Toasted at a ritzy Washington DC fundraiser hosted by Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute. [WHO-TV, June 28, 2014]
- August 2, 2014: Ernst is toasted at a fundraiser co-hosted by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), co-author of the Renewable Fuel Standard Repeal Act.
- August 8, 2014: Ernst conveniently holds press event with Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, billed as ‘STAND[ING] TOGETHER IN SUPPORT OF RFS’.