Dirty Money for Dirty Laws

What can nearly $80,000 buy these days? Judging from recent campaign filings, it can buy a handful of oil friendly bills in Congress.

During the first quarter of 2011, ExxonMobil contributed $79,000 to members of the two main House committees that are driving the assault on President Obama’s clean energy policies. About 97 percent of ExxonMobil’s money went to Republicans, according to POLITICO.

ExxonMobil isn’t the only polluter spreading money around. One year after the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon, BP wrote out checks totaling $29,000 to the campaigns of House Republican leaders.
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Special interest contributions to Rep. Upton dwarf those from his constituents

Since assuming the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Upton’s actions — such as promoting policies that hurt Michigan families or pandering to a big donor at a House hearing on air pollution — illustrate that he is prioritizing special interests’ profits over the well-being of his own constituents.

In looking over the contributions he has received so far this year, I couldn’t help wondering whether the overwhelming contributions from special interests were affecting his judgment:

  • Of the $350,000 he’s received so far this year, roughly 80% came from PACs (only two of which are from Michigan).
  • In fact, less than 10% of his contributions come directly from his constituents.

A glance at the list of contributors illustrates his ongoing popularity with the oil, coal and gas industries (which falls under Rep. Upton’s committee jurisdiction):

It’s interesting to note that there are no coal mines in Rep. Upton’s district, but he receives substantial donations from mining companies and is promoting policies that help them.

Rep Upton, shouldn’t you explain how your policies are protecting the people of Michigan, not supporting dirty energy polluters?

Rep. Upton pitches softball questions to big donor at House hearing

Its never surprising to see members of Congress toss softball questions to witnesses they’ve summoned to Washington to make political points. But even some jaded eyebrows in Washington were raised last week when Rep. Fred Upton tossed a bunch of softball questions to the chairman of a DTE Energy, a company that is one of his largest political donors.

It gets worse: In the month before the hearing, Upton received $12,000 from DTE Energy’s staff and PAC. Contributors included DTE Energy’s Chairman/CEO, President, Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President and Attorney.   In fact, DTE donated more than $19,000 to Rep. Upton during 2009-2010 and was his 5th largest contributor.

DTE Energy donates to a number of politicians from both political parties, but these donations in the weeks before a hearing on air pollution are notable — especially since DTE Energy is being sued by the EPA for violating the Clean Air Act for failing to install required pollution controls on its biggest coal-fired power plants(one of the dirtiest in the nation).

Not surprisingly, Upton asked softball questions of DTE’s Chairman/CEO Anthony Earley, Jr. and echoed the dirty energy industry’s messaging:

Is it any wonder that Rep. Upton has been repeatedly criticized for promoting special interest’s profits over the public health?

You can read the NRDC’s testimony on the same topic or this blog post .

You can also watch NRDC’s John Walke testimony at the same hearing here:

Powerful House Chairman Feels the Heat from Constituent Backlash

Rep. Upton has received significant donations from the oil and gas industry, more so since he became chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.   His efforts in Congress have definitely helped these special interests, putting their profits ahead of his constituents’ health.

His constituents have noticed.  And there has been a tremendous backlash against his efforts. [1][2] [3]

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Champs Stand Up and Fight for Clean Air As Tea Party Loses Steam

Things are looking up in the effort to preserve clean air protections and to keep the Clean Air Act intact. For months, polluters and their allies in Congress have been trying to strip away the protections that keep our air safe to breathe. But in the past few days, 4 anti-clean air amendments have failed miserably in the Senate, 34 senators have declared their support for the Clean Air Act, and now some members of the GOP are indicating they might give some ground on the dirty policy riders they’ve attached to the spending bill — policy riders that don’t save a single red cent.

Two forces are helping break up the logjam: the renewed leadership from clean air champions and the apparent waning influence of Tea Party supporters. But the fight is definitely not over. We need to keep the pressure on until the dirty air bullies back down.

Strong leadership certainly helps. Environmental, public health, labor, and clean tech groups have bombarded lawmakers with data demonstrating how the Clean Air Act promotes health and prosperity. We also shared polling numbers showing that the vast majority of American voters—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike—support the law and want to let the Environmental Protection Agency continue to do its job.

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