By Justin Sink - 06/24/14 02:34 PM EDT
The White House on Tuesday defended plans for top officials to meet with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer later this week, despite criticism that it could appear the administration was opening access to a top Democratic donor.
Steyer has said he would spend at least $50 million of his own money this election cycle to make climate change a top issue in the campaign and has pledged to raise a matching $50 million from other donors.
He'll meet with senior White House leadership and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to discuss a report assessing the economic risks of climate change on Wednesday, according to a White House official. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, and Cargill CEO Greg Page will also attend the event.
But the White House said it is meeting with many leaders on the subject, many of whom are active political donors.
"There are a number of insurance executives who are here to talk to the White House staff today about this very topic," Earnest said. "I would anticipate that many of them — although I don't know this personally, I would assume that many of them have a pretty active political interest, and I would assume that many of their political interests may not align perfectly with the administration's agenda."
The meeting on Tuesday is intended to discuss the economic consequences of severe weather, according to the White House.