As elected officials in Washington continue to mull the possibilities of setting stricter standards for fracking, the natural gas industry has decided to pull out all the stops to defeat these standards before they can even see the light of day. A new report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) shows that the industry’s campaign contributions are now at record levels as they battle politicians wishing to tighten the reins on fracking.
According to the report, natural gas campaign donations to politicians in states where fracking is taking off have risen by 231% in the last 8 years. But the industry is also hedging its bets in non-fracking states, as donations to politicians in those areas saw an increase in donations of 131%.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, isn’t surprised by the increase. Of the report, Sloan said, “Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress…As CREW’s report shows, the fracking boom isn’t just good for the industry, but also for congressional candidates in fracking districts.”
CREW goes on to explain where the bulk of the money is going:
The top 10 recipients of fracking industry contributions are a mix of strong industry supporters and Republican leadership. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, received the most contributions, raking in $509,447 between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles — over $100,000 more than the next closest recipient, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who received $384,700. While serving as chairman of the committee, Rep. Barton sponsored the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Overall, nearly 80 percent of fracking industry contributions went to Republican congressional candidates.
CREW also compiled a chart listing every member of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate (a grand total of 535 elected officials) show how much each representative received from the natural gas fracking industry in the form of campaign donations.
The chart shows just how much influence the industry has purchased: Of the 535 elected officials in the House and Senate, only 67 have not received any money from the natural gas industry. Only 5 Republicans in Washington have not received money, with 62 Democrats being stiffed by the industry as well. It’s clear which political party the industry favors when it comes to buying off politicians.
And House Republicans continue to deliver for the industry. In just the last few weeks, they have introduced legislation that would open up more public lands for drilling, and they are attempting to make it even more difficult for the public to challenge new drilling permits.
Less than 13% of America’s elected representatives have not taken money from the natural gas industry, and that is a very staggering and depressing number. And as we approach next year’s midterm elections, my prediction is that the percentage of politicians with no financial ties to the industry will fall even lower.