To invest or not to invest: Adam Hattersley portfolio creates new spat in CD 15 Democratic primary

Adam Hattersley
Opponent Alan Cohn is going after Hattersley on the environment.

Alan Cohn’s campaign is launching a new line of attack on his Democratic rival in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, this time drawing a distinction on the environment.

Rep. Adam Hattersley invested in to fossil fuel companies and previously accepted a top dollar contribution from TECO, a Tampa-based energy company and subsidiary of Canada-based Emera.

“If you believe we should stop burning coal and ban fracking, that we need bold action to combat climate change, that we need to transition to renewable energy, but are using your money to invest in companies who are working against all of those goals and whose profitability hinges on those things never happening — you are complicit in the destruction of our planet,” Cohn said.

At issue are two investments divulged in Hattersley’s 2019 federal financial disclosures — one in the Marathon Petroleum Corporation and another in Pioneer Natural Resources. Both investments have a listed value range of $1,000 to $15,000.

Hattersley’s 2020 disclosure shows the Pioneer investment gone, but Marathon remaining.

Cohn’s campaign also took issue with a 2019 contribution from TECO for $1,000. That check went into Hattersley’s reelection campaign for the Florida House, which he is no longer seeking.

Hattersley’s investments are part of a broad investment portfolio that contains dozens of companies. It’s not uncommon for investors to rely on market professionals to make portfolio decisions.

However, Cohn contends Hattersley should, quite literally, put his money where his mouth is.

There are hundreds and hundreds of mutual funds that don’t invest in fossil fuel companies. Selecting ones to invest in that do is a choice,” Cohn said.

“Any candidate or member of Congress with investments in the fossil fuel industry should divest — just like over 1,000 philanthropic foundations, governments, colleges, universities, and pension funds already have.”

The Hattersley campaign called the issue an attack on a candidate whose voting record shows a clear adherence to environmental priorities.

“As an actual resident of the 15th congressional district, Adam has focused his campaign on serving the people who live here. He has accepted no corporate PAC money, and has run a clean campaign based on the issues,” said Hattersley for Congress spokeswoman Amy Bolick.

“It’s clear that Mr. Cohn is invested in these unfounded attacks on Adam. If we were interested in running a similar strategy, I could point out that Mr. Cohn reported excessive contributions in his last campaign finance report, or that he paid himself a salary out of campaign contributions when he ran in 2014. Instead, we’ve been focused on the issues that matter to the people of FL 15 — which is why our campaign has been endorsed by 314 Action and the Sierra Club.”

The Federal Election Commission sent Cohn’s campaign treasurer, Brian Foucart, a letter on May 7 asking for additional information on “one or more contributions that appear to exceed” campaign contribution limits.

When Cohn ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014, he listed a $2,197.19 payment to himself as “payroll.” Cohn’s campaign defended the expense, saying it is not uncommon for candidates from middle class background to take a small salary considering campaigning is a full time job. The Federal Elections Commission allows candidates for federal office to take a salary from their campaign account as long as they are not an incumbent.

“At the end of the day, Adam isn’t interested in this kind of misleading mudslinging. We look forward to continuing to run an issues-oriented campaign, and to defeating Mr. Spano in the fall,” Bolick said.

Hattersley’s voting record indeed shows a pro-environment tact. Progress Florida’s People First Report Card gives Hattersley a 100% rating. Its issues include environmental policies such as climate change resiliency, blocking bans on dangerous chemicals, expanding aquatic preserves, holding polluters accountable and ocean conservation.

Hattersley also sponsored the Florida Endangered Species Act (HB 1067) that, in addition to allowing the state to continue protections for endangered species removed from federal classification, factored in the effects of climate change on animal habitats. The bill ultimately died in committee.

Still, some do pay attention to the information behind the votes.

“Adam Hattersley’s ownership of significant quantities of fossil fuel stock makes him fully complicit in climate change and the permanent destruction of native habitat and the loss of multi-generational jobs sustained by agriculture. To have someone so severely compromised running for Congress as a Democrat explains how the status quo never seems to change,” said Suncoast Waterkeeper Executive Director Andy Mele. 

The Pioneer investment also troubles Janelle Christensen, chair of the Florida Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus. Pioneer is one of the nation’s leading fracking companies.

“Fracking has caused a lot of environmental harm to Florida and endangered the health, livelihood and interests of our communities. Our leaders, regardless of party, should not be profiting off of industries that cause harm to Floridians or the waters we depend on,” Christensen said.

Cohen, meanwhile, touts his environmental platform, notably an endorsement from Nobel Peace Prize-winning climate scientist Terry Root.

“As a guest on his ABC7 show I was impressed with Alan’s knowledge about climate change and its impact,” Root said in January when he offered his endorsement. “Alan realizes climate change is already affecting our environment and economy, especially in Florida. I’m supporting Alan because he’s committed to being a voice and vote in Congress in the effort to taking steps to ensure we do what’s needed to avert a calamity that threatens the world.”

The two candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Ross Spano.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


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