How Much Are Fossil Fuel Interests Spending to Sway Your Vote for Congress?

How Much Are Fossil Fuel Interests Spending to Sway Your Vote for Congress?
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Are your Congressional representatives up for reelection this year? How much money have they taken from fossil fuel interests this election cycle? And what about their opponents — are they any better, or are they taking dirty energy money too?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you might want to head on over to NoFossilFuelMoney.org, a new online tool created by ClimateTruth Action to track contributions from the fossil fuel sector — which includes oil and gas companies, electric utilities, coal mining companies, and related businesses — to both congressional incumbents and challengers.

Using up-to-date campaign finance data, ClimateTruth.org Action has found that House and Senate candidates have so far received $29.6 million in contributions from fossil fuel interests.

“The majority of Americans agree it’s time to take action on climate,” said Brant Olson, director of ClimateTruth.org Action. “Yet Congress fails to act. It’s time to buck this trend, and the first step is for voters to know who is buying their politicians.”

Not only has Congress failed to pass meaningful legislation to address climate change, but at times it has been openly hostile to the very idea.

Take, for instance, Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican who serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

In some kind of personal crusade this year, Rep. Smith has used his position to harass environmental groups, two state attorneys general, and even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for their efforts to hold ExxonMobil accountable for its role in misrepresenting to the public and stakeholders the outsized contribution of fossil fuels to global warming. Exxon has a history of funding climate denial groups despite the company’s extensive internal research supporting the science of climate change. 

Rep. Smith also publicly sparred with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year over a study that debunked a favorite canard of climate deniers — namely, that there has been a pause or slowdown in global warming in recent years.

Not surprisingly, Rep. Smith has deep financial ties to fossil fuel companies, including Exxon. But he’s hardly alone: Of the $29.6 million given to Congressional candidates by fossil fuel interests in the 2016 election cycle, $29.1 million has gone to incumbents.

In fact, every incumbent senator running for reelection this year has received some cash from fossil fuel interests, according to NoFossilFuelMoney.org.

And about $1.1 million has gone to incumbents who serve alongside Rep. Lamar Smith on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: $243,000 to the 16 Democrats on the committee, $913,000 to the 22 Republicans (many of whom are working with Rep. Smith to obstruct the investigations by state attorneys general and the SEC into ExxonMobil’s climate fraud).

The team behind NoFossilFuelMoney.org discovered that the top recipient of fossil fuel money running for the Senate is Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has recevied $1,103,551. Meanwhile, the top recipient running for the House is Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), who has taken $1,016,260.

“Fossil fuel companies are buying our elections and selling out the planet,” Olson said. “This data shows fossil fuel companies are investing heavily in the status quo. They are betting big on incumbents to maintain a Congress that’s friendly to dirty energy, and in the process robbing the American people of clean energy jobs and a safe climate future.”


Top 15 Congressional candidates receiving money from fossil fuel interests in 2016. Chart via NoFossilFuelMoney.org.  

Featured Image Credit: Public Domain

How Much Are Fossil Fuel Interests Spending to Sway Your Vote for Congress?
Mike Gaworecki is a San Francisco-based journalist who writes about energy, climate, and forest issues for DeSmogBlog and Mongabay.com. His writing has appeared on BillMoyers.com, Alternet, Treehugger, Change.org, Huffington Post, and more. He is also a novelist whose debut “The Mysticist” came out via FreemadeSF in 2014.

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