DENVER — Sen. Mark Udall stood with the Senate’s most liberal Democrats at Monday’s all-night talkathon on climate change as questions surfaced over whether the event was aimed at raising awareness or raising money.
The dramatic 15-hour gabfest hosted by the Senate Climate Action Task Force was billed as a call to action, but critics pointed out that it comes three weeks after reports that billionaire Tom Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million on promoting climate change in the 2014 election.
Steyer also hosted a Feb. 19 fundraiser at his San Francisco home that was attended by Udall and netted $400,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“Quid Pro Crazy? Is Senate #Alarmathon, with @MarkUdall, linked to billionaire Dem donor?” asked Americans for Prosperity-Colorado in a late-night post on Twitter.
The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and the Washington Examiner’s Byron York suggested in Monday columns that the Democratic talkfest was motivated at least in part by the promise of campaign cash. Both noted that the event was not aimed at promoting specific legislation on climate change.
“An all-night talkathon is not exactly bold action,” said York in an article entitled, “Senate Democrats’ donor-friendly global warming show.”
“But perhaps it’s enough for Democrats to show their big-money donors that they’re doing something,” York said.
Even so, five Senate Democrats facing tough reelection bids in red-leaning states were conspicuously absent from the all-nighter: Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Sen. John Walsh of Montana.
Udall, who’s looking at an increasingly tight race himself, probably could have taken a pass, but instead chose to stand with more than two-dozen of his fellow Democrats in calling for action on climate change.
“Mr. President, now is the time to act, now is the time to grab the opportunity to create new energy technologies, to enhance our national security and to, by the way, to keep faith with our children,” said Udall in his remarks. “We don’t inherit this earth from our parents, we’re borrowing it from our children.”
The all-nighter, which aired on C-SPAN 2 and trended under the hashtag #Up4Climate, also comes with President Barack Obama under pressure to make a decision this year on whether to approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a project staunchly opposed by the climate-change movement despite strong public support.
A number of speakers criticized the proposed pipeline in their floor remarks and in accompanying messages on social media.
“It’s time to take a stand against misguided energy projects. Say no to #KeystoneXL,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, in a Tweet.
Added Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Independent: “No one who is serious about reversing global warming could support the #KeystoneXL.”
Crashing the party was Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, who posted comments on Twitter challenging claims that human-generated carbon-dioxide emissions are causing dangerous levels of global warming.
“’Jan 6, 2014: Tulsa: -2 degrees, breaking a record held since 1912,’” said Inhofe in one Tweet.
Sen. Deb Fischer, Nebraska Republican, added: “Rather than talking about jobs & the economy, Senate Dem majority opts to put on an all-night show on climate change #All4BigDonors.”