Daniel Cameron talks new role fighting “woke corporations,” political future

Published 1:37 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

Former Attorney General and Republican governor candidate Daniel Cameron is reluctant to put all of Kentucky’s hypothetical eggs in the renewable energy basket.

In an interview with the Daily News, Cameron talked about his new position as CEO of the 1792 Exchange, a nonprofit focused on fighting “woke corporations” and ESG, an investment strategy often associated with progressive priorities like cleaner energy and racial and gender equity.

He didn’t rule out future political aspirations. Last year, Cameron easily defeated a sizable Republican primary lineup before eventually losing to incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in November’s general election.

Cameron’s platform heavily leaned on national issues, like Republicans’ anti-LGBTQ agenda. Cameron often connected himself to former President Donald Trump, while attempting to link Beshear to President Joe Biden.

“I ran largely on helping our teachers and making Kentucky an education state, and leading on education. And I ran on making sure that our urban core — that we revitalize it— and that meant ensuring that we have public safety,” Cameron said.

“… Those are still really big issues for us, and things that MaKenze and I continue to think about. And so, we’ll see what comes down the road.”

1792 Exchange

Cameron said he has noticed a trend of corporations and businesses straying from the basics to pursue progressive agendas in their investment strategies.

He thinks that they should “stay out of politics” and focus on “producing products and not pushing agendas.”

“I know there are particularly in Kentucky a lot of folks that want companies and corporations to stop virtue signaling and just get to the basics of making good products,” Cameron said.

“And that is 1792’s mission, we’re not right or left, we’re down the middle.”

In his role, Cameron works with corporations to ensure that they aren’t “bowing to any pressure from the extreme left.”

Most of this pressure comes in the form of ESG, short for environmental, social and governance pillars.

ESG is an investment strategy. The idea is that if a company considers future risks, like climate change, in its investments or opportunities, like the benefits diverse leadership might bring, it will lead to a greater returns in the long term.

However, many conservatives see ESG as a threat.

“ESG is toxic to Kentucky,” Cameron said. “And the reason I say that is because, particularly when it comes to the E, the advocates of ESG want to destroy the fossil fuels industry.”

That would devastate Kentucky’s economy, which still relies on coal and natural gas to sustain the power grid and maintain a competitive advantage with other states, he said.

Cameron added that relying more on renewable energy would make the U.S. more reliant on foreign energy sources, which might leave the nation exposed to other countries’ decisions.

“The more that we rely on solar and wind as a way of operating in this country, the more that we will be subject to the changes in weather —the sun is out, or whether it’s cloudy, whether it’s windy,” he said.

“And those things will not put us in a position to secure and have a grid that can take on the capacity that is required to energize our country.”

Attorney General legacy

Before he ran for governor, Cameron was Kentucky’s first Republican attorney general in decades.

During his tenure, he challenged Beshear and Biden on multiple fronts, including on vaccine mandates, COVID business closures and public gathering restrictions.

He joined other Republican attorney generals to fight Biden on immigration and environmental policy.

Cameron successfully defended Kentucky’s abortion bans in court. Toward the he of his term, he signed a controversial letter objecting to a federal privacy rule change that would remove states’ abilities to access the reproductive health records of its citizens if they go out of state for treatment.

He got national headlines for his office’s involvement in the case concerning the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot and killed by Louisville police officers after an illegally obtained no-knock search warrant.

Instead of appointing a special prosecutor, Cameron’s office took over the case, and the grand jury did not charge two of the involved officers, and charged a third with wanton endangerment for threatening the safety of Taylor’s neighbors.

After several grand jurors later said that they were not presented with the full scope of charges for all of the officers by Cameron’s office, the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in to make charges of its own.

Cameron said that he doesn’t get to decide what his legacy is, but that he is most proud of his work bringing nearly $900 million in opioid settlements to Kentucky.

Half of the settlement funds from opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors are directed to the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Commission, which will decide how to spend them to best prevent and treat opioid addiction.

The other half goes to Kentucky localities to decide how to use that money.

Lessons learned

In the past four years, Cameron said he’s gained an understanding of the shared challenges Kentuckians across the state face, regardless of their political affiliation.

“Everybody wants to feel safe in their home,” he said. “Everybody wants to make sure they’ve got enough money to put food on the table. And they want to make sure their kids get a good education.”

He still wants to make sure that Kentucky is the best version of itself.

“So whatever form that takes, we’re going to continue pushing and working and striving to help as concerned citizens here in Kentucky to make this Commonwealth that shining city on a hill.”