Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made news on his first official day as a GOP presidential candidate by suggesting that Pope Francis' forthcoming encyclical on climate change could inappropriately push religion "into the political realm" and declaring: "I don't get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope." But the media should be covering Bush's remarks in the context of a closed-door meeting he held with coal industry CEOs earlier this month -- an important piece of information that could shed some light on who Bush is actually getting his "economic policy" from when it comes to climate change.
Bush's June 1 appearance at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum was first revealed in a May 29 reportby The Guardian, based on materials the newspaper received from the Center for Media and Democracy, a non-profit watchdog group. As The Guardian reported at the time:
The former Florida governor is appearing at the invitation of six coalmining company owners and executives: Joe Craft III of Alliance Resource Partners, Kevin Crutchfield of Alpha Natural Resources, Nick DeIuliis of Consol Energy, Garry Drummond of Drummond Company, John Eaves of Arch Coal, and Jim McGlothlin of United Coal Company.
Between them, the six companies have spent more than $17.4m on campaigns and lobbying since the last presidential elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets website.
The Guardian further noted that the meeting occurred "at a critical time for the energy industry and for Bush's political ambitions," with the Environmental Protection Agency "expected to finalize new rules for carbon pollution from power plants this summer" and Bush "relatively free of fundraising disclosure requirements until the official launch of his presidential campaign."
The Washington Post, which also obtained a copy of the event's invitation, similarly reported that Bush met with "top officers of some of the largest coal firms in the eastern United States." And McClatchy reported that the meeting came as the coal industry "is fighting in particular the Obama administration's plan to slash the emissions of planet-warming gases from coal-fired power plants," adding that the industry "considers the regulations part of a 'War on Coal' and hopes the next president will reverse or slow regulations."
However, much of the initial media coverage of Bush's June 16 comments about Pope Francis' climate change encyclical has not mentioned his appearance at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum. A notable exception is a June 17 Guardian article headlined "Jeb Bush joins Republican backlash against pope on climate change," which reported that "Bush earlier this month was the sole Republican presidential candidate invited to speak at a $7,500 golfing and fly fishing retreat hosted by coal companies."
The article also noted that a lobbyist for Arch Coal, one of the companies that met with Bush, joined him in preemptively criticizing the pope's encyclical, which will be released on June 18.