Big Energy's Campaign Cash Wins a Big Friend at EPA

Posted by Dale Eisman on October 3, 2017


Energy companies, and coal companies in particular, put big money into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last year. Opensecrets.org, which tracks political fundraising and spending, reports that donors tied to the energy industry contributed nearly $1.8 million to the Trump campaign and $172.6 million into all campaigns across the country.

Today’s New York Times opens a window into the return big energy is getting on its investments.

Drawing on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by American Oversight, a nonprofit group, the Times took a long, hard look at the schedule of Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general tapped by Trump to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The findings suggest Pruitt is more interested in protecting energy companies than in looking out for the environment.

“Since taking office in February, Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. chief has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates,” The Times reported.

In just the first two weeks of May, Pruitt’s schedule included meetings with top executives of the Chemours Company, a chemical firm; the president of Shell Oil, lobbyists for the farm bureau, toy manufacturers, a cement association, the president of a truck equipment manufacturer, and the president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

You can peruse Pruitt’s detailed schedule here.

The Times report highlights the way our campaign finance laws work as a system of legalized bribery. When wealthy individuals, political action committees, and political non-profit groups make substantial contributions to campaigns or “independent expenditures” to support or attack a candidate, they routinely get special access to the candidate – later the officeholder – and his or her staff.

And access, of course, is a key step toward securing the lawmaker’s support for legislation and/or regulations that will further enrich the donor.

In the case of Pruitt and the energy industry, the donors are eager to hold the Trump administration to the president’s campaign promises to promote domestic energy production, particularly in the coal sector. The Times reports that many of the industries represented on Pruitt’s schedule “have high-profile matters pending before the agency, with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in regulatory costs at stake.” Some of the companies and trade groups worked closely with Pruitt during his tenure as Oklahoma’s top lawyer, as he sued the E.P.A. at least 14 times to try to block rules he’s now in charge of enforcing.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics, Ethics

Tags: Fighting Big Money, Disclosure, Executive Ethics

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