Elon Musk has a history of getting behind progressive causes. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO cites climate change as his reason for creating Tesla and for advocating for refugees. He left his position on two White House advisory councils after President Trump backed out of the Paris Agreement. He’s campaigned for a carbon tax, vowed to fix the water crisis in Flint, Michigan after the government failed to do so, and he’s referred to himself as a socialist on multiple occasions. Given his public commitment to these social reforms, why did he just donate to a Republican PAC?
Last quarter, Musk was one of the top 50 donors to Protect The House, a PAC aimed at maintaining Republican control of the House of Representatives. His donations to the PAC were made public in Federal Election Commission filings released on Saturday and highlighted by Salon, noting that Musk contributed $38,900. The PAC raised more than $8 million in the second quarter of 2018.
“Obviously I think Hillary’s economic policies, her environmental policies in particular, are the right ones,” Musk said on CNBC days before the 2016 election. When pressed on his thoughts on Trump, Musk added, “I feel a bit stronger that probably he’s not the right guy. He just doesn’t seem, he doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States.”
Musk has a history of donating to both parties. He donated $2,300 to Hillary Clinton during both her 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns, and apart from donating to President George W. Bush in 2003, he’s only donated to Democratic presidential campaigns.
While it can be considered strategic to have influence in both parties, it’s peculiar that this donation is not to a specific candidate, but to a PAC that ensures Republican lawmakers across the board maintain influence over their Democratic challengers. This is particularly suspect in a midterm election year when challenged GOP lawmakers are running on platforms that deny climate change, resist carbon taxes, support Trump’s immigration policy, and maintain US dismissal of the Paris Agreement, all of which contradict values that Musk has publicly embraced.
“Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk tweeted after announcing he was leaving the Trump’s business advisory councils. This was after he had lobbied Trump for a carbon tax and reminded fans that, “obviously Tesla is about helping solve the consumption of energy in a sustainable manner, but you need the production of energy in a sustainable manner.”
Just one month after proclaiming himself a socialist, Musk is now defending his donation as “politically moderate.” While he maintains that “humanitarian issues are very important to [him]” he has yet to clarify which humanitarian cause he was supporting through his donation to current Republican campaigns.