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Oh, that oil money!

The 2016 presidential election has already been the most fact-challenged in American history -- and that was before Hillary Clinton forgot about those huge donations from Big Oil.

There's an old (and when I say "old," I mean about 500 B.C. old) saying that, "In war, truth is the first casualty." Well that's certainly true, but in the 2016 presidential race, the truth has been carpet-bombed back into the Stone Ages. I'm still trying to process Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, where the candidates lied about some very important stuff and also lied about some very silly stuff. Carly Fiorina blamed President Obama for forcing the resignation of a general in 2003 -- six years before he took office -- while Chris Christie assured the world that he'll be the POTUS who can communicate with Jordan's King Hussein...who died in 1999.

But what about about the Democrats? Well, first of all, you have to find them. Say what you will about GOP bedwetting over terror threats, fear-mongering and general dishonesty, but at least they have their debates in the open where people can see them. The Democrats will have their third debate -- and the last one of 2015 -- on the Saturday night before Christmas, where a handful of egg-nog-snockered viewers might accidentally tune in right before passing out. The stealth debates are a gift to Hillary Clinton, to limit her exposure -- and risk -- during the primary season.

Why would Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the beleaguered chair of the Democratic National Committee, and her cohorts want to shield Clinton from the public?

Well, consider this interaction that occured at a town meeting on Wednesday, when a voter asked her whether accepting campaign contributions from the oil industry might influence her. Her response: " "Well, I don't know that I ever have...I'm not exactly one of their favorites."

Really? A piece co-authored by my friend and Philly-area homeboy, David Sirota, offered some facts that might help the Democratic front-runner remember things better:

Oil and gas companies have contributed more than $700,000 to Clinton's campaigns throughout her political career, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2008, she was the seventh largest recipient of oil and gas campaign cash in the entire Congress. Meanwhile, oil giant ExxonMobil has given at least $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, and $2 million to its event arm, called the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the Wall Street Journal. ExxonMobil has contributed $16.8 million to Vital Voices, a nonprofit that Clinton co-founded to empower women, the paper reported.  

In her 2016 bid, Clinton has relied on a slew of current and former advocates for the oil and gas industry for fundraising support -- including Tony Podesta, the brother of Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta. As recently as this year, Tony Podesta has lobbied for BP, the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. He has also lobbied for a company part-owned by ExxonMobil. Podesta has raised over $130,000 for Clinton's campaign, according to federal election records.

As a senator, Clinton voted twice in favor of expanding offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and to end restrictions on drilling off the coast of Florida. During her time leading the State Department, the agency signed the "U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement" -- a deal it said would help energy companies expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Clinton said  the pact would "promote the safe, efficient, and equitable exploration and production of cross-boundary reservoirs."

In September, Clinton announced her opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline (which has since been rejected by the Obama administration). When Clinton was secretary of state, though, the department approved plans for a pipeline to transport tar-sands oil from Canada.

First of all, if Big Oil gave all that money to Hillary and she doesn't even remember it, that would have to be the worst investment since the 76ers landed Andrew Bynum. Either that, or Hillary is simply being dishonest, which is kind of shameful.

Here's the thing -- whatever her true feelings, Clinton's stated positions on key environmental issues, as of today, are a better deal for Planet Earth than what the Republicans are offering. But some of those positions are fairly new -- she finally came around on the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, right around the time that longtime Keystone opponent Bernie Sanders began to rise in the polls. But the 2016 election is going to be about more than who has the best policy positions. Voters are craving authenticity and the truth... least as they perceive it. Donald Trump's voters, almost to a man or woman, say their candidate "tells it like it is," even though about 85 percent of what he says is unadulterated baloney, because it's what they feel in their heart is true (even if what they felt in their heart is too often tinged by fear, racism and xenophobia). In the case of Bernie Sanders, millions of voters are responding to a very different kind of authenticity -- the kind that comes with holding onto the same core values for 50-plus years and with refusing to take those big donations from those big corporations.

As I've said many times, Sanders' surge probably won't be able to undo Clinton's close ties with key Democratic voting blocs, in that highly Balkanized party. But Hillary's grip on the nomination will surely never be loosened when the debates are hidden away like some late-night infomercial for a male-pattern baldness cure. Voters have made it clear they can handle the truth. Now, could the candidates, please?