Thursday, November 13, 2014

Report: Natural Gas Industry Spent $49 Million To Influence Elected Officials Since 2007

The natural gas industry and related trade groups gave approximately $8 million to Pennsylvania state candidates and political committees from January 2007 through October 20, 2014, according to new research by Common Cause Pennsylvania and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.  
The industry also spent $41 million lobbying the Pennsylvania state legislature from 2007 through June 2014.
"The gas industry invested $8 million in politicians and saved itself tens of millions in a severance tax and reduced regulations," said Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.  "The politicians who took gas money and did gas's bidding made a similar calculation, selling out Pennsylvanians and selling off public resources for contributions to their own campaigns."
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) was the top recipient of industry campaign contributions accepting $2,084,241 from the industry since 2007 – $1.56 million from industry employees and $526,652 from industry PACs. The industry contributed $697,284 to Governor Corbett in 2013 and 2014 alone.  
In addition, two industry executives, John Hess, CEO of the Hess Corporation, and Trevor Rees-Jones, Chairman of Chief Oil & Gas, contributed a total of $475,688 in 2014 to the Republican Governors Association (RGA). RGA was the largest donor to Gov. Corbett in the 2014 campaign.
The natural gas industry contributed to Governor-elect Tom Wolf as well, though at a much lower level, donating $53,500 during the course of the 2014 campaign.
Other top recipients of industry money between 2007 and August 2014 were:
— Senate President Joseph Scarnati (R-25): $500,870
— Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-28): $272,100,
— 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato: $179,200.
— Newly elected House Majority leader Dave Reed (R- 62): $178,950.
— Former Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9): $170,250.
— Newly elected Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) came in 12th in overall contributions: $89,650.
"The natural gas industry has invested heavily to maintain their influence in the state legislature and the Governor's Mansion over the last several years," said Josh McNeil, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of PA. "With the millions the industry is spending on political contributions and lobbying, it's obvious why Harrisburg has done so little to regulate gas drilling."
"Is it any wonder that Pennsylvania is the only drilling state that does not make the industry pay its fair share through a state severance tax, even while our schools are underfunded and our environmental protections are cut back?," said McNeil.  "Or that the state parks and forests are once again open to gas drilling despite overwhelming opposition from the people of Pennsylvania?"
The data also shows that a new spending trend has emerged in recent years: a shift to more political party political action committee (PAC) contributions.  
From 2007 to 2014, gas industry contributions favored candidates to Party PACs by a ratio of nearly four-to-one ($6.2 million to $1.4 million).  Party PAC contributions favored the Republican Party with a seven-to-one majority ($1.27 million to Republican Party PACs; $166,850 to Democratic Party PACs).
"Though the industry has contributed to both parties, it is clearly favoring the Republican Party by a wide margin," said McNeil.
The update also revealed that natural gas industry lobbying expenditures climbed from 2007 through June 2014. Over this period, the natural gas industry spent more than $41 million lobbying Pennsylvania officials. Approximately $23 million of that total was spent since the beginning of 2012.

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