Bought and Sold

Coal, oil and gas companies spent more than $721 million to set the anti-environment agenda of the new Congress.

Coal, Oil and Gas Companies Spent More than $721 Million to Set the Anti-Environment Agenda of the New Congress

First, the good news: Today the White House said definitively that President Obama will veto legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

But when it comes to standing up to dirty energy, the legislative branch is a different story, and it’s not just on Keystone. A legislative rider that was quietly attached to a major defense funding bill in December marked a watershed change in the political fortunes of the coal, oil, and gas industries. The rider—which turns the Bull Mountains in Montana over to a Koch-connected, Houston-based company to be strip mined for coal—was the fossil-fuel industry’s first major payoff from a nearly three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar investment to secure Republican control of Congress and set the stage for a pro-coal, pro-drilling, and anti-environment agenda for the next two years.

With Congress largely deadlocked since 2013, oil, gas, and coal interests have increasingly focused their resources on putting industry-friendly politicians in charge of both chambers and laying the groundwork for the new Congress to advance special-interest priorities, whether it’s big name issues like Keystone or hidden legislative riders. According to a Center for American Progress report released in December 2014, the fossil-fuel industry directly invested $721 million— and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars more through contributions to outside groups —in order to set up the agenda of the new Congress.

In addition to more than $64 million in election contributions to candidates and political parties, the fossil fuel industry directly spent more than $163 million on television ads across the country, and paid almost $500 million to Washington lobbyists in the two years leading up to the November 2014 elections.



On top of $721 million in direct investments, fossil fuel interests directed money through outside groups to influence the composition and agenda of the incoming Congress, and reportedly funneled money through so-called “dark money” groups that are not required to disclose their donors, including organizations in the Koch network. The top six Koch-backed organizations planned to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the midterm elections; the National Journal reported that the Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Action Fund alone spent a “combined $100 million on competitive races in 2014.”

BOTTOM LINE: After getting $721 million worth of help from fossil fuel interests, Congressional Republicans have made it clear that a dirty energy agenda will be front and center in the 114th Congress. The new GOP-controlled Senate put the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval as its first agenda item of the new Congress and is expected to vote on the pipeline this week. With the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the coal, oil, and gas industries, what new giveaways can Americans expect over the next two years?

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