If you’ve been following the career and presidential campaign of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) you probably know at least one thing about her. She’s opposed to fossil fuels of all sorts. She has joined Bernie Sanders in promising to enact a ban on fracking from day one as president. She will also institute a moratorium on drilling leases, both offshore and on federal lands. She’s a sponsor of the Keep It In the Ground Act in the Senate.
Warren has also publicly pledged not to accept any campaign contributions of more than $200 from the oil-and-gas industry. (Wait, if fossil fuel money is “dirty,” why is taking any of it okay? Isn’t that like just trying a little bit of heroin? Well… moving on.) You get the picture. No oil. No natural gas. No coal. None of it. But if that’s the case, Senator Warren may have some serious explaining to do after an investigative report from the Wall Street Journal revealed some rather “dirty stories.” It turns out that Warren and her family have been dabbling in gas drilling leases and profiting from them for decades. And some of those arrangements are still active today.
So it’s worth noting that, for years, she and her husband reported modest income from natural-gas royalties in her native state of Oklahoma. Ms. Warren’s financial disclosure filed with the Senate in 2012 included $504 of income from “gas well royalty interests” in Latimer County. The next year it was $203. Drill a little deeper and the facts get even more interesting.
Ms. Warren’s campaign has posted 11 years of her tax returns, which show gas income from at least 2008. That year she filed jointly with her husband, Bruce Mann, who had $872 in royalties from gas wells in Oklahoma. There are smaller amounts—a few hundred dollars—reported over the next several tax returns, before the yearly earnings stop.
You might be thinking that we’re only talking about a few hundred dollars here and there, several years in the past, for someone who is a multimillionaire. What’s the big deal, right? Well, if you read on in the WSJ report, it goes deeper than what’s found on her tax returns. Property records show a 2011 sale of all the oil, gas and mineral rights for some of their property to none other than their own son, Alexander. (Keeping it in the family, I guess.)
The paper trail goes on further, including quite recent events. There’s a 2017 transfer of parcels of property in Hughes County, Oklahoma, including drilling rights, involving her son and three of her brothers. The agreements include the payment of royalties for any recovered resources. And those agreements were slated for three years, so they will still be in effect until at least this summer.
What’s the deal, Senator Warren? You’re going to impose a moratorium on drilling and a ban on fracking, preventing people in states like Pennsylvania from profiting off their own land. But you and your family have been and continue to do the same thing for yourselves right up to the present day? There’s a name for that sort of behavior and it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite think of it just now. It starts with an “h” I think…