Meet the billionaire Republican donor who will be the next ambassador to Canada
President Donald Trump has tapped a new ambassador to Canada, opting for a billionaire Republican consultant who used her family’s massive coal fortune to get Trump elected.
Kelly Knight Craft will be Trump’s pick to head up the American diplomatic mission in Ottawa, if reports from Bloomberg are correct, as he plows ahead with plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and slap a huge new tax on foreign imports into America.
Craft isn’t exactly a household name — unlike erstwhile Governor Sarah Palin, whose name was originally touted for the job — but she is a heavy hitter in the GOP.
Craft and her husband, Joseph, have swung more than $2 million to Republican causes, and the occasional Democratic campaign, in 2015 and 2016.
Only a fraction of that money ended up in Trump’s campaign. The pair initially supported Marco Rubio, but also contributed to the campaigns of Ted Cruz and Chris Christie.
But once the general election was underway, the Crafts cut a $750,000 cheque for Future45, a political action committee that unleashed a series of brutal advertisements attacking Hillary Clinton.
After Trump’s election, the Crafts were listed on Trump’s inaugural finance committee.
Craft does have some experience with Washington. In 2007, she was appointed by then-President George W. Bush to a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, and advised the U.S. ambassador on its policy towards Africa, according to a biography on the University of Kentucky website. She serves as a trustee on the university’s board of directors.
The Crafts’ money comes from Joseph’s business: Alliance Resource Partners, a massive coal company that operates throughout Kentucky, West Virginia, and the surrounding states.
The Crafts have supported pro-coal initiatives through the CoalPAC, which pushes pro-coal initiatives through campaign contributions; and Alliance Coal PAC, which is the political action committee for Craft’s company.
Appointing financial backers to diplomatic posts isn’t unheard of for the White House. President Barack Obama selected prominent Democratic fundraiser Bruce Heyman to the Ottawa job — although that decision was seen in Ottawa as a slight against then-Prime MInister Stephen Harper, who had a frosty relationship with his American counterpart.
America has been without an ambassador in Canada since Heyman left the job, on Trump’s inauguration day.
Trudeau’s pick for an ambassador in D.C. also went to a long-time party worker, lobbyist David McNaughton, who served as an organizer for Trudeau’s election bid.
The Crafts certainly seem aligned with Trump when it comes to his commitment to coal. Trump is said to be preparing an executive order to lift a federal coal moratorium, and to repeal green initiatives.
Joseph Craft, who was on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans for a time, has used his sway to bring about pro-coal laws and to defend the notoriously dirty electricity source.
The Lexington Herald-Leader wrote that the coal magnate “may be Kentucky’s most powerful non-elected individual.” The paper suggested that his political contributions might be more about benefits for his coal business, and reported that he remains a climate change skeptic.
That seems to back up with what Craft’s company argued in corporate filings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, where Alliance Resource Partners lamented that initiatives to limit carbon emissions could hurt the coal business, adding that measures from governments in America and abroad aimed at tackling the “perceived threat from climate change attributed to greenhouse gas emissions” could raise costs and “reduce demand for coal.”
Given that, Canada is an odd posting for Kelly.
The Trudeau government has announced plans to totally phase out coal-powered electricity by 2030.
Cover: REUTERS/Carlos Barria