A new report penned by the environmental movement’s genius uber-strategist Daniel J. Weiss of The Center for American Progress and his alliterative sidekick Anne Wingate examines exactly how big Big Oil’s influence on individual members of Congress is. Working with OpenSecrets.org, Weiss and Wingate found that the 189 members who opposed a Democratic measure to redirect $16 billion in oil and gas subsidies to clean energy like wind and solar received on average $109,277 in contributions from Big Oil between 1989 and 2006. The 221 representatives that voted successfully to shift the subsidies to clean energy had only received an average of $26,277 over the same period.
While I’m sure some of those representatives who voted against the measure may sincerely believe that Exxon Mobil needs an extra few billion so that its shareholders don’t go hungry, I suspect that most were just doing it to keep the petrodollars flowing right into their campaign account, and were willing to ignore the climate crisis to do it. It’s amazing how cheaply those representatives are willing to sell their votes: $109,277 over 17 years isn’t that much money — generally less than 5 percent of what those candidates spent on their campaigns during that time.
It shows how contributing to political candidates remains one of the most effective ways to spend money: had Big Oil won this round, they would have spent one dollar for every $774 dollars they got back in subsidies (and that’s just this one vote; actually their $20-million-plus in contributions have got them more than $35 billion annually in subsidies and tax credits). Industry has long known this, but environmentalists can get the same bang for the buck by directing more of their resources towards campaign contributions.
I’d like to highlight a few of the biggest recipients of Big Oil’s big money:
New Mexico’s Heather Wilson (R): $492,120
New York’s Thomas Reynolds (R): $155,661
Virginia’s Tom Davis (R): $134,360
But I’ve got to give today’s Climate Balls of Steel award to New Jersey’s Mike Ferguson (R), who sucked in $95,500 in oil money, but voted against Big Oil anyway. There aren’t many people who can suck on Big Oil’s teat and then spit crude oil in the harlot’s face, but apparently Ferguson (at least in this instance) is one.