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PACing Away the Climate Security Act?

Will Senators who received the most energy donations block global warming solutions?

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When the Senate begins debate on the Climate Security Act next week, two opposing lobbying forces will line up against each other. On one side will be those organizations—mostly nonprofits—that support the bill. This will include the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 13 building trade unions, environmental organizations, and faith groups. The other side will feature some of the richest companies and powerful trade associations in the world. The opponents will include Peabody Energy, ExxonMobil, American Electric Power, and the Chamber of Commerce. Both sides’ lobbyists and advocates will be well-equipped with fact sheets, talking points, and target lists.

These companies and trade associations will have one other crucial tool that the nonprofits lack: millions of dollars in campaign contributions given to the senators who will decide whether we move forward to attack global warming, or continue to do nothing. These funds will provide a huge advantage to the interests who favor denial, delay, and the dilution of solutions.

Campaign Contributions: Electric Utilities
Rank
Senator
State
Party
2008
Lifetime
1 Voinovich, George V
OH
R
$114,050 $551,066
2 Graham, Lindsey
SC
R
$112,090 $517,427
3 Domenici, Pete V
NM
R
$79,000 $498,673
4 Obama, Barack
IL
D
$382,498 $487,698
5 Bingaman, Jeff
NM
D
$12,000 $458,076
6 Burr, Richard
NC
R
$27,500 $431,645
7 Baucus, Max
MT
D
$130,542 $430,743
8 Clinton, Hillary
NY
D
$273,554 $429,946
9 Landrieu, Mary L
LA
D
$67,458 $427,254
10 Specter, Arlen
PA
R
$84,700 $408,247
11 Inhofe, James M
OK
R
$82,300 $367,863
12 Lieberman, Joe
CT
D
  $352,842
13 Craig, Larry
ID
R
$28,500 $342,045
14 McCain, John
AZ
R
$183,740 $338,240
15 McConnell, Mitch
KY
R
$68,150 $312,400
TOTAL $1,646,082 $6,354,165
AVERGAGE $117,577 $423,611

 

Campaign contributions almost never buy votes. The conviction of Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) for taking bribes from the defense industry is a unique exception rather than the rule for elected officials. However, donations do buy direct access to legislators, and this makes it easier for special interests to influence them. This access and influence grows along with the galloping need for campaign contributions.

Senators must raise millions of dollars for their election campaigns. In 2006, the average winning senate candidate spent nearly $9 million, and this figure could easily grow to $10 million or more in 2008. This means that senators seeking reelection this year must raise $15,000 per day every day from January 1, 2007 to November 4, 2008. These contributions have to come from somewhere, which is why political action committee and individual donations from the electric utility, coal, oil and gas, auto, and chemical industries are widely sought by senators. These interests all oppose binding reductions in greenhouse gas pollution that causes global warming. And they have undoubtedly made their views known to the largest beneficiaries of their generosity.

Campaign Contributions: Oil and Gas
Rank
Senator
State
Party
2008
Lifetime
1 Hutchison, Kay Bailey
TX
R
$82,400 $2,104,925
2 Cornyn, John
TX
R
$405,950 $1,239,675
3 Inhofe, James M
OK
R
$166,650 $1,022,873
4 Domenici, Pete V
NM
R
$135,550 $748,197
5 McCain, John
AZ
R
$485,526 $734,303
6 McConnell, Mitch
KY
R
$181,350 $633,211
7 Landrieu, Mary L
LA
D
$147,800 $575,194
8 Clinton, Hillary
NY
D
$354,920 $512,470
9 Vitter, David
LA
R
$26,350 $489,435
10 Thune, John
SD
R
$16,950 $475,472
11 Bond, Christopher S ‘Kit’
MO
R
$9,200 $439,460
12 Stevens, Ted
AK
R
$48,750 $422,590
13 Specter, Arlen
PA
R
$26,700 $416,278
14 Kerry, John
MA
D
$0 $406,590
15 Allard, Wayne
CO
R
$0 $402,956
TOTAL $2,090,104 $10,623,629
AVERGAGE $130,632 
$708,242

A review of campaign contribution data1 from the Center for Responsive Politics finds that the senators who have received the most money from these interests from 1990-2008 are the leading opponents of the Climate Security Act. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), the leading recipient of contributions from the electric utility and chemical industries, will be a leader in the opposition to the Climate Security Act. These two industries gave him more than $1 million combined.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is another fervent opponent of the Climate Security Act and was the top recipient of donations from the coal industry. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is the third largest recipient of oil and gas money, with over $1 million in contributions. He is the Senate’s most vociferous opponent of global warming solutions, and even called warming a “hoax.”

Campaign Contributions: Coal Mining
Rank
Senator
State
Party
2008
Lifetime
1 McConnell, Mitch
KY
R
$80,400 $399,549
2 Rockefeller, Jay
WV
D
$74,000 $194,300
3 Specter, Arlen
PA
R
$12,550 $162,656
4 Voinovich, George V
OH
R
$20,750 $158,549
5 Byrd, Robert C
WV
D
  $124,500
6 Shelby, Richard C
AL
R
  $113,000
7 Bond, Christopher S ‘Kit’
MO
R
$18,200 $106,850
8 Bunning, Jim
KY
R
  $106,160
9 Inhofe, James M
OK
R
$37,500 $93,550
10 Conrad, Kent
ND
D
$2,300 $90,612
11 Bayh, Evan
IN
D
  $86,000
12 Sessions, Jeff
AL
R
$23,900 $85,600
13 Allard, Wayne
CO
R
  $81,875
14 Warner, John W
VA
R
  $74,550
15 Craig, Larry
ID
R
  $3,000 $73,406
TOTAL $272,600 
$1,951,157 
AVERGAGE $30,289 
$130,077 

Interestingly, the leading recipient of auto industry money is not from an auto-producing state. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has raised nearly $600,000 from car company political action committees, or PACs, and employees, which is nearly one-third more than Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). He has also raised more from all five interests—nearly $2 million—than 98 other senators. It is unclear what influence these donations have had on Sen. McCain. Recently, he has supported existing tax breaks for big oil companies, and opposed shifting resources to spur renewable energy and efficiency. On May 28th, he indicated that he will miss the votes on the Climate Security Act next week, but opposes it because it does not include subsidies for nuclear power plant construction.

Campaign Contributions: Automobile Industry
Rank Senator State Party 2008 Lifetime
1 McCain, John
AZ
R
$333,489 $589,239
2 Levin, Carl
MI
D
$146,499 $416,554
3 Clinton, Hillary
NY
D
$282,018 $391,688
4 Bond, Christopher S ‘Kit’
MO
R
$28,300 $385,190
5 Voinovich, George V
OH
R
$21,700 $370,582
6 Alexander, Lamar
TN
R
$44,300 $367,750
7 Kerry, John
MA
D
$2,000 $360,339
8 Hutchison, Kay Bailey
TX
R
$7,743 $348,920
9 Kyl, Jon
AZ
R
  $315,760
10 McConnell, Mitch
KY
R
$85,750 $302,575
11 Stabenow, Debbie
MI
D
$21,900 $287,168
12 Lugar, Richard G
IN
R
$1,500 $279,375
13 Thune, John
SD
R
$2,200 $269,598
14 Cornyn, John
TX
R
$84,600 $258,654
15 Obama, Barack
IL
D
$182,305 $239,655
TOTAL $1,246,312 $5,183,047
AVERGAGE $83,087 $345,536

These industries are likely to pursue many weakening amendments to the Climate Security Act. Utilities companies may seek subsidies for nuclear power plants, and delays in compliance rates and dates. Coal mining companies may seek to remove all binding reductions, as well as seek additional subsidies for coal-fired power plants. And the auto industry will likely attempt to “preempt” California and many other states from adopting the California program to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles. Many of the senators near the top of these contribution lists are likely candidates for sponsors such amendments.

Campaign Contributions: Chemical
Rank
Senator
State
Party
2008
Lifetime
1 Voinovich, George V OH R $68,900 $498,425
2 Specter, Arlen PA R $36,400 $342,149
3 Lieberman, Joe CT I   $312,800
4 Bond, Christopher S ‘Kit’ MO R $1,150 $285,340
5 McCain, John AZ R $162,656 $277,492
6 Alexander, Lamar TN R $50,600 $233,350
7 Kerry, John MA D $9,600 $225,030
8 Cornyn, John TX R $69,250 $208,260
9 McConnell, Mitch KY R $50,000 $194,755
10 Hutchison, Kay Bailey TX R $2,000 $191,856
11 Clinton, Hillary NY D $116,642 $177,667
12 Carper, Tom DE D $6,900 $169,490
13 Hatch, Orrin G UT R   $149,100
14 Coleman, Norm MN R $46,050 $146,824
15 Lugar, Richard G IN R $7,500 $141,675
TOTAL $629,656 $3,554,213
AVERGAGE $44,975 $236,948

In today’s political climate, public policy, legislation, and campaign cash remain tightly intertwined. The fight over global warming solutions reflects this atmosphere with a vengeance because the utility, oil and gas, coal, auto, and chemical companies desperately want to maintain status quo energy policies. Big oil, for instance, has profited mightily from the current energy climate while Americans suffer with $4 per gallon gas prices. Will the senators who received the most money also stand in the way of global warming solutions that will protect our security, economy, and environment?

Data from Center for Responsive Politics.  Charts includes contributions from 1990 to first quarter 2008 for all of the Senators’ federal campaigns: House, Senate, and Presidential races.

 

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