Meet the man willing to spend millions to convince Elon Musk to dump Trump


Doug Derwin is investing up to $2m to persuade Teslas CEO to speak out against US climate change policies and resign from groups advising Trump

Luxury car owners may seem like an unlikely target for organizing a political resistance movement, but to Doug Derwin, its all about the make: Tesla.

Derwin is investing up to $2m in an effort to persuade Teslas CEO, Elon Musk, to speak out against Donald Trumps climate change policy and resign from his positions in groups advising Trump on business and manufacturing jobs. On Monday, Derwin launched the website laying out his argument that Musks role in the administration is inconsistent with his role as a leader on climate change.

Full page ads will run in the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News on Sunday. Television ads will air during Morning Joe, Meet the Press and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Over the past month, Derwin has deployed mobile billboards around the offices of Musks various companies with messages including Elon: The Trump Wont Wash Off and SpaceX: Is Mars Worth Global Warming Here?

Over the past month, he has deployed mobile billboards around the offices of Elon Musks various companies. Photograph: Courtesy of Doug Derwin

He is also asking owners of Tesla vehicles to sign a petition and send personal messages to Musk. Those on the waitlist for Teslas coveted vehicles are encouraged to withdraw an action Derwin took when he learned of Musks ties to Trump. (Derwin said that he lost his deposit and donated the $150,000 cost of the car to the American Civil Liberties Union.)

So far, Derwin estimates that he has spent $750,000 on the campaign. If Musk accedes to his demands, he has pledged to donate $1m to a charity of Musks choice.

The Elon Dump Trump campaign is just one of several nascent efforts to pressure the tech industry to push back against the Trump administration, but it may be the best funded. Derwin said he experienced a windfall due to the post-election stock market rally.

Doug Derwin took himself off the waitlist for a Tesla when he learned of Musks ties to Trump. Photograph: Courtesy Doug Derwin

Donald Trumps election has made me a lot of money, he said. I consider that blood money. Ill use it to oppose Trump.

While Derwin thinks that Trumps presidency is a travesty on multiple levels, he is particularly outraged by his rollback of climate change regulations. The fact that Musk has posed for photo-ops with Trump is particularly galling, Derwin said, because Musk is recognized as being a leader on climate change.

I want Musk to speak up against Donald Trumps climate change policies, he said. His failure to do so sends the message that its not really a big deal and not worth his time.

Though Musk has yet to respond to Derwins call, Tesla is certainly paying attention. Sam Teller, director of the office of the CEO at SpaceX and Tesla, contacted Derwin by phone after his billboards started popping up.

Teller told Derwin that Musks sincerity shouldnt be questioned on climate change, and that speaking out against him was the wrong thing to do, according to Derwin. Last week, Derwin was invited to a meeting at Teslas factory in Fremont, where he sat down with Teller, Tesla general counsel Todd Maron, and Teslas vice-president of business development, Diarmuid OConnell.

While Derwin thinks that Trumps presidency is a travesty on multiple levels, he is particularly outraged by his rollback of climate change regulations. Photograph: Courtesy Doug Derwin

Though Derwin voluntarily agreed to keep the contents of the meeting confidential, he did say that it didnt accomplish anything. As for the presence of Maron, Derwin said, I was a lawyer and still am When you take a lawyer to a meeting like that, its intended to send a signal.

Tesla did not respond to repeated inquiries about its interactions with Derwin. Asked for comment on Musks view of Trumps climate change policy, a Tesla spokesman initially shared a statement by Musk from early February, when he was first under pressure to withdraw from Trumps business advisory group.

On Wednesday, a Tesla spokesman provided the following additional statement: Its quite ironic that the reason being given for attacking Elon is to help the environment. Teslas entire reason for existing is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. If someone wants to spend money to promote a pro-environment objective, we can think of better ways to do that than attacking the people who are most committed to that very purpose. Mr Derwin believes those who want a more sustainable future should not have a seat at the table. We obviously disagree.

In the weeks since Musk met with Trump, the president has rolled back fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, signed an executive order to undo Barack Obamas clean power plan, and proposed a budget that would gut the Environmental Protection Agencys climate change, pollution and energy efficiency programs.

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