It turns out that Paul Scott will not be meeting President Obama after all. The passionate electric car advocate (and co-founder of Plug In America) puts his money where his mouth is by selling Nissan Leafs in Los Angeles. He had sent in $32,400 — a good chunk of his relatively modest savings — for a chance to briefly meet President Obama at a forthcoming fundraiser and talk about climate change and his personal story — 10 years driving an electric car fueled by solar power. But on Monday in an email, Scott was disinvited by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The committee's message thanked Scott for his passionate advocacy, but said the media attention had become a distraction.
“The story got spun by the right into a ‘pay-for-play’ narrative, and I became a liability,” said Scott, who is nevertheless still very supportive of both Obama and the DNC. “The whole thing was twisted by the conservatives, who claimed that Obama was doing something wrong by talking to me at the event.”
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin’s headline was “Electric Car Advocate pays $16K a Minute to Personally Ask Obama to Push Carbon Tax.” There are a few other pieces like that, but this hasn’t become a radioactive story in the red-state blogosphere, at least not yet. It may be that the DNC’s decision to return the donation will give it some lift.
We’ve all gotten fundraising appeals like the one sent to Scott, we just usually hurl them into the circular file. “I got an email three or four weeks ago saying that Obama was coming to L.A. and for $10,000 I could have lunch with him,” Scott told me. “For $16,200 I’d get lunch and a photo. But for $32,400, I’d get lunch, a photo, and a chance to sit in on a roundtable discussion with the president, limited to 25 people. It was off the record, but we could talk about anything we wanted. I stared at the computer screen. The money was a big part of my retirement fund.”
Scott is a survivor of bladder cancer. “I’m not in good health, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll live,” he said. “This seemed like a good way to spend my money, to push the economic benefits of electric cars for our nation. My thought is that the average American pays this kind of money, over time, to the oil companies. We pay out $700 billion a year to Big Oil, and spend $80 billion a year protecting the oil supply.”
Scott is still selling Leafs in Los Angeles, and he says sales are “robust.” He’s still mainly concerned with getting his message out, not getting down in the weeds on the DNC returning his money, so here’s another part of what he has to say: “The money means nothing to me — it was an opportunity to meet with my favorite president, who’s been great on electric cars. If I’d been able to talk with him, I’d say we have the capacity to build 300,000 electric cars, but we’re likely to sell only 80,000 or so this year. It’s not moving fast enough. We need to make the transition to electric vehicles sooner rather than later.”
Personally, I think Obama should talk to Scott anyway, with no money changing hands. That would be a really remarkable gesture. Scott's no fat cat. As he puts it, he'd have been the only guy at that event who does his own laundry. His point of view might be refreshing for the president.