US Oil lobby outspends green movement by factor of five

By John Parnell

Mitt Romney, potential Republican presidential nominee

Mitt Romney epitomises the presence of money in US politics. His personal wealth is double the tally of the last eight President's combined (Source: Gage Skidmore)

Lobbyists backing US oil and gas interests outspent their environmental counterparts by a factor of five during a two-year, non-election period.

The data from MapLight, shows that oil and gas companies donated $15,078,146 to Republican Senators and members of congress.

Environmental groups meanwhile, donated $2,847,072 to Democrat Senators and members of congress.

The recent Keystone XL pipeline decision highlighted the extent linkages between the industry and individual political issues.

Koch Industries, one of the largest importers of Canadian oil, would stand to benefit greatly from the pipelines construction. The company donated 10% of the total oil and gas funding to republicans during this two-year period.

Writing in The Guardian recently, anti-Keystone campaign chief Bill McKibben pointed out the link between votes and financing from the fossil fuel lobby.

“Congress decided it wanted to take up the question. Within days, and after only a couple of hours of hearings that barely mentioned the key scientific questions or the dangers involved, the House of Representatives voted 234-194 to force a quicker review of the pipeline,” wrote McKibben.

“As important as the vote total in the House, however, was another number: within minutes of the vote, Oil Change International had calculated that the 234 congressional representatives who voted aye had received $42m in campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry; the 193 nays, $8m.”

Climate scientists have also been under financial pressure with sceptic groups pursing legal action to gain access to private emails.

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has been established to provide legal representation to scientists battling such claims. The fund had raised $25,000 at the time of launch earlier this month.

A running theme during election campaigns in the US is campaign finance. Donations are charted by the press as a metric for a campaign’s relative success.

This year’s election is the first since the Supreme Court removed the cap on donations.

So-called Super PACs (Political Action Committees) can make unlimited donations on the condition that they do not liaise directly the candidates they support.

The rule has been mocked by US satirist Stephen Colbert who ran in the South Carolina primary.

Having set-up a regular, PAC last year in his own name, he was able to hand-off ownership to fellow comedian Jon Stewart as a Super PAC called “The definitely not coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC”.

Election spending doubled from 2004 to 2008. Current projections show that spending on TV adverts will rise by 80% compared to 2012.

VIDEO: This video from The Huffington Post explains Super PAC rules and Stephen Colbert’s parody of them 


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