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Fossil Fuels

Study Finds Statistical Correlation Between Voting Records & Campaign Cash

An analysis of 28 years of campaign contribution data finds a correlation between donations by fossil fuel companies and the voting records of members of Congress. Are you surprised by that?

The thing about America being a republic is before the members of Congress get to vote on things, first they have to get elected. As conservative writer George Will puts it, “The principle of representative government, which is at the heart of conservatism, is that the people do not decide; the people choose who will decide. ”

Photo by Carolyn Fortuna, CleanTechnica (permission to use if correctly attributed)

In the America that has developed following the infamous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, politicians are awash in campaign contributions. John Roberts and friends have decided the Constitution forbids any and all limits on how many dollars corporations can spend on political campaigns, which is clearly a wrongheaded and ignorant decision that any 8th-grader could prove is absurd, but Roberts is the Chief Justice and you’re not, so get used to it.

The Supreme Court is wrong. Corporations are not “people” within the terms of the Constitution and they are not entitled to override the wishes of the general population who are the actual owners of the country. As one wag has said, “I will believe that a corporation is a person when Texas executes one.”

The consequences of an overheating planet are on a lot of people’s minds these days, and the notion is beginning to sink in that the fossil fuel industry might have something to do with that. The industry is naturally concerned that lawmakers might pass legislation that is unfriendly to their business model as a result of public pressure and so it is normal (if you live in a country where money is allowed to distort the political system) for them to support representatives who vote for policies that favor them.

And they do. According to a study entitled Oil And Gas Companies Invest In Legislators That Vote Against The Environment published February 24 by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, oil and gas companies gave $84 million to US legislators in 2018. According to The Guardian, the researchers found a statistical correlation between an increase in anti-environment votes and an increase in contributions.

After analyzing 28 years of data, the researchers say, “We find that evidence consistently supports the investment hypothesis: The more a given member of Congress votes against environmental policies, the more contributions they receive from oil and gas companies supporting their reelection.” In 1990, 63% of oil and gas money went to Republicans, the researchers found. In 2018, 88% of the industry’s campaign donations were to the conservative party.

The League of Conservation Voters keeps track of how every member of Congress votes on legislation. It finds as the LCV score declines — meaning the voting record is less favorable to environmental concerns — the amount of money a member of Congress receives from fossil fuel companies goes up.

“Legislators proved that they’re willing to vote against the environment consistently and then they’re rewarded later,” co-author Matthew Goldberg, a postdoctoral associate with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, tells The Guardian. “I suppose this is more of an advantage for oil and gas companies because they need to ensure that people are going to vote in their interest.”

Money has always been a problem in campaigns. If you are a member of Congress and someone offers you $50,000, you take it. Some say members of Congress spend the majority of their time seeking money for their next election campaign, leaving little time left over for actual legislative duties. And if someone does donate $50,000, the recipient is more likely to look favorably on legislation that benefits that donor and unfavorably on any that is contrary to the interests of that donor. It’s human nature.

Is that corruption? Of course it is. But in America in 2020, corruption in high places is tolerated, even applauded. America has the most corrupt president in its history and his supporters can’t stop cheering. Strange behavior, indeed.

There is a lot of talk about what one person can do to address the danger of a warming planet. Voting for representatives who are not captives of fossil fuel companies might be a good start.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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