On February 26, 2020, members of Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America, Northfield Against Line 3, and other allies from the Movement to Stop Line 3 gathered in downtown Minneapolis at the offices of Winthrop & Weinstine—one of Minnesota’s premier corporate law firms and lobby shops—to call out its relationship with Enbridge Energy, the company that wants to build the massive Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Activists also took aim at JPMorgan Chase—the world’s worst funder of climate change, with offices in the same building—for contributing $5.4 billion to Enbridge pipeline-related loans.
According to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s data, Canada’s Enbridge Energy was the biggest spender on lobbying in Minnesota, paying out over $11 million.1 Most of the money was used to advocate in front of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) where lawyers from Winthrop and other prestigious firms argued for Enbridge’s right to build the dangerous tar sands pipeline across northern Minnesota. That same year, Winthrop & Weinstine’s political fund contributed nearly $60,000 to various local and state-level campaigns and election funds, including $3,750 to then-gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz. After Walz won office, Winthrop was one of the largest donors to his “One Minnesota Inaugural Committee,” contributing $25,000 in early 2019. Inaugural committees are not subject to the same giving restrictions as political campaigns.2
In a statement released by the Stop Line 3 groups, they called out this state of affairs “where powerbrokers like Winthrop & Weinstine profit from the spoils of ecological destruction and genocide, and then use that money to buy influence at the expense of worker’s rights, democratic elections, Indigenous sovereignty, and a future free of climate chaos.”
Gov. Walz has framed his administration as a leader on climate action, but he has yet to take a firm stance on the Line 3 pipeline that according to official estimates will emit 193 million tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent impact of adding 50 new coal-fired power plants.3
The protesters noted that in 2018 during his campaign for governor, Walz signed the Sunrise Movement’s No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge which commits signees “to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or SEC-named executives of fossil fuel companies…”4 In response to the news that Walz continues to accept contributions from the Winthrop & Weinstine PAC (as recently as October 2019), Sunrise Twin Cities said: “We’re deeply disappointed by Governor Walz’s refusal to stand by his pledge to not accept money from Big Oil representatives and his continued abdication on the Line 3 pipeline. If you take money from the fossil fuel lobby you cannot call yourself a climate progressive and you cannot expect our support.”