Harrisburg – A new study finds that the natural gas industry continues to spend exorbitant amounts of money to influence Pennsylvania politicians – even in “off-year” election cycles. In 2015, the oil and gas industry spent over $8 million on lobbying. The total lobbying money spent by the industry since 2007 has been $55.9 million.
Campaign contributions in 2015 totaled $733,635 – slightly below the last odd-year total of $851,232 in 2013.
“The legislature’s recent disruption of longstanding efforts to create cleaner air and water for the people of Pennsylvania shows the corrosive ties between the fossil fuel industries and leaders in the legislature,” said Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters of PA.
This report comes at a time when the state government is still reeling from pro-industry politicians holding the budget process hostage in an unprecedented fashion in 2015. Schools, social services, and other vital state and local agencies were left without funding, while the gas industry again pushed back a severance tax that could have helped alleviate budgeting pressures. Now, as we prepare for a new budget, politicians who have received huge donations are introducing a number of problematic bills that would sacrifice the environment for the sake of industry profits.
Not surprisingly, the gas industry also appears to have found value in investing in judicial candidates. While the identifiable amount spent by gas drillers during the 2015 appellate court elections appears to have been fairly small ($29,850, with $11,850 going to new Justice David Wecht), such investments in judges are troubling. The industry likely will face judges in whom they have invested when defending regulatory enforcement actions and criminal prosecutions, as well civil actions by harmed citizens and communities.
Common Cause/PA Executive Director Barry Kauffman expressed concern about judges accepting campaign dollars from the gas industry. “The integrity of our judicial system is put in jeopardy when litigants, and those who are likely to have issues before the courts, give money to the judges who will decide their fates. When a person appears in court, he or she should have absolute confidence that the judge is not biased in any way. When a judge is confronted in court by a litigant who has funded his or her campaign, that confidence is shattered.”
The courts are the final hope for achieving justice under our tripartite system government, and citizens need to be assured that judges hearing cases in which they are involved have not been compromised due to the impact of contributions made to them by their opponents. A campaign finance system the permits current and future litigants to give money to the judges and justices that will ultimately make the courts’ decisions will always leave in doubt the question of whether justice was truly served.
MarcellusMoney.org is a project of Common Cause/PA and Conservation Voters of PA that tracks the growing political influence of the gas drilling industry. For more information, the full report is available at MarcellusMoney.org.
- Natural gas campaign contributions (2015): $733,635
- Total contributions (2007-2015): $8,839,930
- Natural gas lobbying expenditures (2015): $8,375,436
- Total lobbying (2007-2015): $55,866,620
In 2015 natural gas donations to:
- Republican candidates and PACs totaled $511,595.
- Democratic candidates and PACs totaled $186,600.
The top recipients in 2015 were:
- Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati: $83,200.
- House Majority Leader Dave Reed: $42,100.
- The Senate Republican Campaign Committee: $38,000.
- Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman: $35,500.
- Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald: $32,000.
- The House Republican Campaign Committee: $17,000.
- Senator Guy Reschenthaler: $17,000
- House Speaker Mike Turzai: $15,000.
- Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa: $12,550
For more information, the full data sheet, and analysis of the impacts of these expenditures, read the full report at www.marcellusmoney.org.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
Issues: Money in Politics