Conor Lamb Is a Centrist in Sheep’s Clothing

Conor Lamb Is a Centrist in Sheep’s Clothing

Conor Lamb Is a Centrist in Sheep’s Clothing

In spite of branding himself as a true-blue Democrat, the Pennsylvania representative has allied himself with Joe Manchin, voted with Republicans, and taken money from the fossil fuel industry.


Last weekend, Representative Conor Lamb, a frontline Democrat from Pennsylvania who’s running for the Senate in 2022, vowed to support carbon-free energy payments, a key climate provision Senator Joe Manchin is currently trying to strip from Democrats’ social spending package. Lamb officially jumped in the race in August to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey, in what is expected to be one of the most contentious contests in next year’s midterm elections.

During his time in Congress, Lamb has repeatedly bucked his own party to support a range of conservative positions, including anti-climate policies. But since launching his Senate campaign, Lamb has sought to rebrand himself as a more mainstream Democrat who will advocate for his party’s policy priorities—all while distancing himself from his actual voting record and history in the House.

In 2018, Lamb was one of 13 Democrats to vote for an amendment repealing an Obama-era clean water regulation known as Waters of the United States, and one of seven to oppose an amendment that would reduce fossil fuel research and development funds. He voted twice for GOP resolutions against implementing carbon taxes.

Most notably, Lamb is among the group of corporate House Democrats calling for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to pass without the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, gutting the core of President Joe Biden’s climate and social safety net agenda. While progressive House Democrats were “holding the line” in late September to try to preserve the Democratic agenda, Lamb was calling on his colleagues to vote yes on the infrastructure bill. “Trump promised & never delivered,” he tweeted. “We can deliver. Vote yes.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lamb has raked in tens of thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry over the course of his political career. In the third fundraising quarter of 2021, the first quarter of his campaign, Lamb received $12,100 from fossil fuel executives and $11,550 from fossil fuel industry lobbyists, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. In the second quarter of the year, before officially announcing his campaign, he received $4,900 from industry executives and $6,250 from lobbyists for the industry. During the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, Lamb raised over $30,000 in campaign cash from fossil fuel industry employees and PACs, according to OpenSecrets, a group that tracks money in politics.

This summer, Lamb received two maxed-out campaign contributions from Stacy Schusterman, heir and chair of Samson Energy, a fossil fuel company that owns nearly a dozen oil and gas wells in Wyoming. As The Intercept reported, Schusterman is the largest individual donor to Democratic Majority for Israel, the pro-Israel Super PAC that has spent millions going after progressive candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders and Nina Turner. Before selling the company in 2011, the Schusterman family owned and operated “one of the largest privately owned oil and gas exploration and extraction companies in the United States,” with 4,000 wells across the country. Lamb also received two maxed-out contributions from Toby Rice, CEO of EQT, the largest gas driller in the US.

Lamb’s two major opponents, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, have pledged to not accept donations from executives, lobbyists, or PACs connected to the fossil fuel industry. Fetterman has been leading the crowded primary field in fundraising, and reported raising nearly $2.7 million in campaign contributions during the third quarter and having $4.2 million cash on hand.

Fetterman and Kenyatta, both of whom support Medicare for All and the decriminalization of marijuana, are running to Lamb’s left. They support aspects of the Green New Deal, though Fetterman is still not on board with a fracking ban. Kenyatta, in contrast, has expressed support for a nationwide ban on fracking.

Aside from his climate stances, Lamb has also joined Republicans in voting against other Democratic priorities, like decriminalizing marijuana, ending the war in Iraq, and delivering Covid-19 relief to undocumented immigrants. When Lamb first entered Congress, he voted with Trump’s position about 68 percent of the time. But these days, he’s a lot more careful about voting with his party. This year, he has voted with his fellow Democrats about 99 percent of the time. Whether the new Lamb will remain in existence beyond campaign season is anyone’s guess.

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