Democratic operative John Podesta asked a billionaire environmentalist to foment a student-led revolt against a professor opposing the Obama administration’s climate rules, according to leaked emails published Tuesday.
The campaign chairman for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton requested billionaire Tom Steyer ask an environmentalist academic friend to stoke a revolt against law professor Laurence Tribe, who was one of President Barack Obama’s mentors at Harvard University.
Podesta, who also served as chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton, condemned the hacked emails, telling reporters he doesn’t know where the “unauthentic” emails originated. The memo was one of nearly 8,000 emails that have been leaked by WikiLeaks over the course of the election season.
“Can you get your pall McKibben to organize Harvard student protests against him,” Podesta wrote, referring to Steyer’s relationship to anti-fossil fuel environmentalist, Bill McKibben. “I’m all for academic freedom when it’s not bought and paid for by Peabody Coal.”
Tribe represented coal producer Peabody Energy in its court battle against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. He called the new rules unconstitutional in 2014. Tribe has been a virulent critic of Obama’s climate rules, and has testified before Congress against the climate regulations.
McKibben is a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont and the co-founder of anti-oil group 350.org, which works to force universities to divest from fossil fuels. The group also works to create student environmental activist groups around the country.
Steyer told Podesta that he was “on it,” telling Clinton’s confidant that he “will try” to get McKibben to use his student network to send Tribe a message.
Steyer used his political action group NextGen Climate Action to shovel $25 million into a campaign in April to encourage young people to support and vote for green energy candidates in the November 2016 election.
NextGen justified its spending by pointing to a June 2015 poll showing 73 percent of young voters believe the U.S. should receive 50 percent of its energy from solar panels and windmills, among other renewable sources, by 2030.