The dirty energy industry sees big, important debates heading to a Democratic Congress, and it’s preparing by buying up "moderate" House Democrats ($ub. req’d):

Moderate House Democrats — even freshmen with little obvious influence — have seen a surge of campaign contributions from the energy industry, whose giving patterns have long favored Republicans.

Data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show the overall industry and individual energy companies giving a larger percentage to Democrats than they have in a decade. Though powerful committee chairman are seeing a major share of those new industry dollars, a large portion is also flowing to rank-and-file lawmakers who have agreed with the industry on some key issues.

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Of course, you need to know how to read media-speak here. In this context, "energy industry" means fossil and nuclear energy, and "moderate" means friendlier to fossil and nuclear energy. As Exhibit A, I give you the "Blue Dog Democrats," a coalition of 47 business-friendly Dems:

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Last August, for example, 38 Democrats — many of them Blue Dogs — voted against an amendment to the energy bill to establish a renewable electricity mandate. Nonetheless, the amendment passed 220-190. Later that day, 11 of those Democrats also voted against a measure that sought to repeal some tax credits for oil companies.

This cycle, they are raking it in:

Last year, Blue Dog PAC — which distributes money to group members and other moderate candidates — received $96,000 from electric utilities, oil-and-gas companies, and energy industry groups, according to Federal Election Commission figures.

The PAC has already surpassed the total it raised in each of the last two campaign cycles — $74,000 in 2004 and $48,500 in 2006. And industry contributions are likely to continue to climb as the election nears.

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Industry groups that have contributed previously — the American Gas Association, Entergy Corp., PG&E Corp. and others — have cut bigger checks this cycle. And the PAC has also picked up new donors, among them Constellation Energy, which gave $5,000; FirstEnergy, $2,500; Marathon Oil Co., $10,000; and NRG Energy Inc., $5,000.

Industry is also targeting individual Dems with swing votes on key committees, like Rep. John Barrow of Georgia ($100,000 this cycle so far), Jim Matheson of Utah ($78,000 so far), Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana ($25,000 so far), and Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina ($33,000 so far, even though he faces no serious challenger).

Meanwhile, the vast renewable and efficiency lobbies are … blogging their little hearts out.