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U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has returned $5,600 in donations to an Enbridge donor after PAI revealed the campaign contributions.

U.S. Senator from Minnesota & 2020 Presidential Candidate Amy Klobuchar (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Amy Klobuchar, the U.S. Senator from Minnesota and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has returned $5,600 in donations from an Enbridge projects manager tied to the company’s Minnesota pipeline operations, according to City Pages. The return of the donations comes after City Pages reported on research published by the Public Accountability Initiative last Tuesday that surveyed donations to 2020 presidential candidates by donors affiliated with Enbridge. 

PAI found that Klobuchar was the top recipient of money from donors that list Enbridge as their employer. She received $5,600 – the maximum allowed for donations to campaign committees – through two donations from Robert Krastch, an Enbridge projects manager based in Duluth-Superior, where one of Enbridge’s three U.S. offices in located.

As PAI showed, Kratch has played a significant role in overseeing Enbridge pipeline projects in Minnesota. He managed the “project execution of the Line 67 Expansion Project,” a major Enbridge pipeline project in Minnesota, and in 2014 testified, in reference to Line 67 and Line 3, that Enbridge had “a multi-million dollar economic interest in the continued operation of both of these pipelines to transport the volumes of oil required by U.S. refineries.”

The Klobuchar campaign has now decided to return the donations. An update at the top of the City Pages article that originally reported on PAI’s research now reads:

Update: Amy Klobuchar has since returned the donations from Enbridge project manager Robert Kratsch.

All this comes as the debate over Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement pipeline intensifies. The pipeline will cut 337 miles through Minnesota to deliver Tar Sands crude oil to Superior, Wisconsin. The Line 3 pipeline has been strongly opposed by indigenous and environmental groups in Minnesota. 

As MinnPost wrote, the Line 3 pipeline is “becoming an issue in the 2020 presidential race.” Democratic primary candidates Bernie Sanders and Jay Inslee have explicitly come out against the expansion project, while Klobuchar, according to MinnPost, “has not taken a clear position for or against the project.” Klobuchar’s state director told MinnPost that she “supports environmental review of the project to determine if Line 3 should be built.”

President and presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump has not addressed Line 3 specifically. However, he is generally a vocal supporter of expanded fossil fuel infrastructure and has signed an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to make it harder for state environmental regulators to block pipelines under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is currently considering Enbridge’s 401 certification for the Line 3 expansion.

All this comes as CNN is set to host a climate town hall in September with 2020 Democratic candidates. The entire field of Democratic candidates has also taken the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, where they agree “not to take contributions over $200 from oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, and PACs and instead prioritize the health of our families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits.”

Klobuchar’s acceptance of the Kratsch donations doesn’t appear to violate her signing of the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. She tweeted about agreeing to the pledge on May 20, 2019, whereas Kratsch’s donations to Klobuchar came on May 16, 2019. Kratsch, who lists his position as a Projects Manager, also does not appear to fall into the “executive” category.

David Turnbull, Strategic Communications Director with Oil Change US, an endorser of the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, tweeted last week that while Klobuchar did not technically break the pledge, it was “still NOT a good look,” and that “Minnesotans are fighting to #StopLine3 with everything they got, and this surely has to hurt.”

PAI found that donors who had Enbridge listed as their employer had given a total of $8,048.31 to two candidates in 2019: Donald Trump and Amy Klobuchar. 

Klobuchar was the top recipient of Enbridge-tied money, with $5,600 from Enbridge’s Kratsch. 

The Trump campaign received $2,448.31 from Enbridge-tied donors, with the bulk of this – $2,050, through three donations – from Allen C. Capp, Enbridge’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Investment Review. Capp is based in Houston, Texas, where two of Enbridge’s three U.S. offices are located.