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Joe Biden confronted by climate activist outside fundraiser on East Side of Providence



As former Vice President and current Presidential candidate Joe Biden left his car in the pouring rain to enter the East Side Providence home of Sally Lapides and Arthur Solomon for an exclusive fundraiser, he was approached by climate activist Michael Kearney. At first Biden seemed to welcome Kearney, but when Kearney, a 22 year old Providence resident, brought up the subject of climate change, Biden brushed him off.

Joe Biden

“Why are you putting the fossil fuel industry over us?” yelled Kearney, as Biden left reporters and protesters alike outside in the rain. “You said you wouldn’t take Super PAC money and now you take Super PAC money!”

“I’m really scared for my family who’re in California and suffering the worst effects of wild fires,” said Kearney to reporters. “Every day I am afraid for their lives and their homes. I’m scared for those of us in Rhode Island, because we’re facing the worsening effects of more severe weather events.

“So I was here to confront Vice President Biden because he promised in June not to take any corporate PAC money, and not to take any money from fossil fuel lobbyists. But just a few weeks ago he started taking money from the Unite the Country Super PAC whose treasurer is a former fossil fuel lobbyist. And four lobbyists from that firm have donated more than $200 to [Biden’s] campaign., which means that he broke the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge that he signed in June.

“So we’re out here demanding that Joe Biden recommit to rejecting all donations from the fossil fuel industry and to put the youth and our future first. Because we can’t afford to wait any longer,” concluded Kearney. “And we need politicians that are going to put us before corporate interests.”

The executive in question is Andrew Goldman. Biden flubbed a question about Goldman at a town hall style meeting in September. The No Fossil Fuel Pledge is an effort by the Sunrise Movement to get politicians to shun fossil fuel money.

Well over 100 people were inside a tent erected outside the Manning Street in Providence home to hear Biden speak and give him money. Among the elected officials inside were Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Representative David Cicilline, Representative James Langevin, Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee, State Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, Senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) and State Representative Carlos Tobon (Democrat, District 58, Pawtucket). Notably absent were Governor Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Like the recent visit by Democratic candidate for President Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s Rhode Island was not a campaign stop but a cash pickup. People paid between $100 and $2800 to hear Biden speak for less than an hour.

Photo from inside the fundraiser (c)2019 Emma Bouton

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“Vice President, recently you began taking money from a Super PAC…” shouted Kearney as Biden left the fundraiser after about an hour inside.

“Why don’t you go home, huh?” said Biden in annoyance.

“…whose treasurer is a fossil fuel lobbyist,” continued Kearney.

“That’s not true,” said Biden.

“Why are you going back on the pledge you signed in June not to take money from Super PACs?” asked Kearney.

“No I’m not!” said Biden, entering his vehicle.

“You’re going back on the pledge!” said Kearney.

Also outside the fundraiser, across the street, was Johnston resident Frank Ricci, a strong Trump supporter.

Frank Ricci

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.