New Report on Energy Industry Details Contributions and Lobbying Figures, Shows Industry Spent Nearly $3 Billion This Decade

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  • Dale Eisman

Spent $3.2 Million a Day Lobbying Congress Through First Quarter of 2010 Highlights Need for Fair Elections

Highlights Need for Fair Elections

Energy companies are pumping billions of dollars into the nation’s political system to help maintain US dependence on their products, according to a new Common Cause report released today.

Since 2000, the energy industry, including oil and gas companies, electric utilities, mining companies and waste management firms, has contributed more than $337 million to federal candidates and party organizations, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Yet that number pales in comparison to what the industry has spent lobbying Congress and the executive branch during that same time: nearly $2.6 billion.

“No one would invest that kind of money into our government and politics without expecting something in return,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “And what the industry got for its money was lax Congressional and regulatory oversight and a host of federal policies that benefit its bottom line. But with oil coating the Gulf of Mexico, it has never been clearer that the industry’s profits are coming at the nation’s cost.”

The report, released Tuesday, pulls together official campaign finance and lobbying disclosure reports to highlight big energy’s major role in federal elections, as well as policymaking and regulation of the industry. It looks specifically at giving by the industry to the four congressional committees with jurisdiction over energy issues: the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Additional report findings revealed:

For every $1 spent on political campaigns, the energy industry spends more than $7 on lobbying. Since 2000, energy companies have invested nearly $2.6 billion to lobby Congress and the executive branch.

What does that mean on a daily basis? Consider this: Even before the BP oil disaster occurred in April, the energy industry during the first quarter of 2010 spent more than $3.2 million on lobbying for each day that Congress was in session. That’s more than $244,000 spent per Member of Congress. Among major industries, only health care interests have spent more.

Employees of and groups tied to BP, the company at the center of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, have donated more than $3 million to congressional election campaigns since 2000.

Oil and gas companies are the energy industry’s most aggressive donors. They’ve contributed more than $154 million to federal candidates since 2000, about 46 percent of big energy’s total donations. Electric utilities have donated more than $104 million and mining interests just over $30 million.

The energy industry has aggressively hired former congressional staff and other insiders to lobby. More than 300 lobbyists now working for oil and gas interests have past connections to federal agencies or Congress.

“The nation’s need for clean, renewable energy becomes clearer every day,” said Edgar. “But energy companies and other special interests use their campaign contributions and lobbying clout to dominate debate in Washington and block sensible regulations. We can start to change that with passage of the Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that will let candidates and officeholders end their dependence on big, corporate contributions and rely instead on small donations from individual, in-state givers. Then, elected officials would be beholden to constituents, not their big donors.”

Click here to view the full “Legislating Under the Influence” report.