(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden on Thursday defended his decision to attend a fundraiser hosted by a co-founder of a liquefied natural gas company, despite criticism from environmental groups and activists that he is breaking a pledge to forgo contributions from the fossil-fuel industry.
Biden, along with nearly every other Democratic candidate, signed a pledge vowing not to accept contributions over $200 from executives of the fossil-fuel industry. The pledge defines “executives” as named executive officers in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
“I just want to be very clear to everyone here that I am committed to not raising money from fossil fuel executives and I’m not doing that here,” Biden said at the New York fundraiser.
Biden addressed the controversy at the start of his remarks, telling the crowd: “I know there’s been a lot of tension paid to your showing up tonight. More than I think you anticipated.”
He then offered an extended defense of his record on the environment. He said climate change was the “existential threat to everyone in this room” and called out President Donald Trump for choosing “fiction over science.”
The former vice president was confronted about the New York event during a CNN town hall for Democratic candidates on climate change on Wednesday.
After first denying that co-host Andrew Goldman was in the fossil-fuel industry, he said Goldman was not listed as an executive of Western LNG in SEC filings and had no day-to-day control of the company.
Goldman co-founded Western LNG, a Houston-based company that develops liquefied natural gas export facilities. The company’s financial filings in Canada describe Goldman as “a long-term investor in the liquefied natural gas sector.”
Western’s website says “Goldman served as an adviser to Senator Joseph R. Biden III until his inauguration as vice president of the United States in early 2009.”
“What I was told by my staff is he did not have any responsibility relating to the company,” Biden said Wednesday at the forum. “He was not on the board, he was not involved at all in the operation of the company at all. But if that turns out to be true, I will not in any way accept his help. We check every single contribution.”
Goldman is now managing director of Hildred Capital Partners LLC, a New York-based money management firm. Hildred had no comment on the fundraiser.
The Biden campaign declined to discuss the issue on Thursday. Biden also attended a fundraiser Thursday at the home of Jack Rosen, a real estate executive and president of the American Jewish Congress.
“While it may not technically violate the pledge, it clearly goes against its spirit,” David Turnbull, a spokesman for Oil Change U.S, one of the environmental groups that organized the pledge, said in a statement. “We defined the pledge’s rule to make it simple for candidates to commit to and follow, not to provide loopholes to continue raising funds from fossil fuel-adjacent sources.”
(Adds Biden’s comments in third paragraph.)
--With assistance from Jennifer Epstein.
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