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August 20, 2010
Website Tracks Political Donations by Oil, Gas, and Coal Companies
    by Robert Kropp

Oil Change International unveils to highlight correspondence between corporate political donations and Congressional voting patterns.

If a rational person wants to know why passage of climate change legislation has failed in the US Senate, one could do worse than follow the old adage of Deep Throat of Watergate fame: follow the money.

In an effort to help discerning minds do just that, Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organization, has created, a website on which the political donations to members of Congress by oil and gas and coal companies are listed.

"Since 1999," Oil Change International reports, "The oil, gas and coal industries have given over $114 million in contributions to members of Congress." Furthermore, "Members of the 111th US Congress have reported taking over $14.8 million from the oil, gas and coal industries through June 22, 2010."

Six current elected officials have accepted more than $1 million in what Oil Change International describes as "dirty energy money" since 1999. Among them, John Cornyn of Texas has received $1,863,310, Joe Barton of Texas has received $1,707,173, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—the Senate minority leader—has received $1,147,558. Five of the top six recipients of dirty energy money are Republicans.

Since 1999, ten corporations have given political donations exceeding $2 million. Of the ten, Koch Industries has given more than $4.5 million, followed closely by Southern Co. and Exxon Mobil.

According to Oil Change International, "The influence of the industry shows in recent energy votes in both the Senate and the House, where members voting against clean energy options are receiving significantly more money from the dirty energy industries."

A resolution submitted by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—who has received almost $400,000 in oil, gas, and coal money during the 111th Congress—which would have "weakened the Clean Air Act and blocked new fuel economy standards," according to Oil Change International, was defeated by a vote of 53 to 47. Senators voting for the resolution received almost three times as much in donations from the dirty energy industries than those who defeated the measure.

An amendment proposed by Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, that would have eliminated tax loopholes for oil and gas companies, was defeated by a vote of 61-35. Senators voting against the measure have received more than three times the amount of donations from oil and gas companies.

On July 30, the House of Representatives voted to remove the previously existing liability cap for oil spills, by a vote of 209-193. Representatives voting against the measure have received nearly five times the amount of donations from oil and gas companies.

In announcing the initiative, Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, stated, "Those of us who care about America's addiction to oil, climate change, and a clean energy future have been scratching our heads, wondering why, after historic levels of pressure we can't even pass an oil spill response bill, not to mention a real clean energy or climate bill."

Kretzmann added, "When in doubt, follow the money."


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