Buying Influence, Part XXIV

July 09, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

It should come as little surprise that the energy industry appreciates its right to pollute for free, and that it’s lobbying furiously to retain that privilege as the Senate begins debate on its climate change bill. But it’s still a fascinating exercise to see where exactly the money’s going.

Enter Common Cause, which, using figures gathered from Senate documents and the Center for Responsive Politics, reveals today that the gas, oil, mining and electric interests have combined to spend nearly $24 million lobbying Congress on the bill in the first three months of this year alone, while tallying another $4 million on direct campaign contributions over the same span.

“The energy industry is betting millions that they can buy influence in Congress and protect their profits, even if it means blocking an important step towards clean, renewable energy and a healthier planet,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar said in a statement accompanying the report.

House lawmakers passed their version of the controversial cap-and-trade climate bill last month, with Senate leaders hoping to take up their own (yet-unreleased) version later this year, even despite a tight legislative calendar. Leading the Senate charge is Environmental and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who held a hearing earlier this week to guide the direction of the bill.

Proving that the energy industry knows where to turn the screws, members of the EPW panel have received more than $2.1 million in contributions from the oil, gas, mining and electric industries in the last 30 months. Leading the list of recipients is Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the senior Republican on the panel who for much of this decade fought the idea that global warming is real. Inhofe has toned down his message over the years — at this week’s hearing he merely accused Democrats of “subsidizing the East and West coasts at the expense of the heartland” — but his ability to pull in campaign cash from the nation’s biggest polluters has remained constant. Indeed, they’ve given him more than $630,000 since 2007.