The names may change in Congress. Democrats may replace Republicans in the majority. But when it comes to energy legislation, the same rule always applies: Money talks.
So is it any surprise that agribusiness, a sector that gave $44.6 million to Democratic and Republican candidates in the last election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, came out the big winner in the energy bill passed by the Senate on June 21? The oil-and-gas industry, which gave $19.1 million as part of a natural-resources sector that gave $46.4 million, didn’t do too badly, either.
Automakers, who gave $14.2 million of the $39.9 million contributed by the transportation sector, wound up with the short end of the stick in the Senate bill but look poised to recover in the legislation now moving through committee in the House. The auto industry is likely to benefit from the second rule of political giving: It’s not how many politicians you buy but which ones. The first rule, by the way, is give early and often.
- Ethanol: huge winner
- Oil and natural gas: big winner
- Coal-to-liquid fuels: big loser
- Alternative and renewable energy: big loser
- Energy-efficient technologies: a reasonable victory
MSN Money columnist Jim Jubak describes why alternative energy gets very little financial support from the federal government. Big Oil knows how to maintain its monopoly — investing in Washington politicians.
Wonder why we don’t have a national energy policy or a serious push toward alternatives? Follow the money that oil and gas companies send to Congress.
Amazed that Washington loves to talk about energy research with promise 15 years down the road, but won’t put significant money into alternative technologies that could reduce energy consumption now?
For answers to all those questions and more, just follow the money. Nothing about U.S. energy policy should be a surprise if you know where the money’s been going and which legislators have taken the biggest payouts from the energy industry. So don’t miss your only chance in the next two years — the Nov. 7 election — to tell Congress what you think of its sellout to the energy companies.
The top five contributors were Koch Industries,, , and , according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Here are the top 10 — all Republicans — as complied by the Center for Responsive Politics:
Big Oil’s 10 favorite Congress members Rank Candidate Office Amount given by oil and gas industry
Bode, Denise, R-Okla.
Data from the FEC as of Sept. 11, 2006. Compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
avily to Texas Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; to Sens. James Talent of Missouri, Conrad Burns of Montana and George Allen of Virginia, all of whom sit on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; to Illinois’ Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House, who plays a huge role in deciding what legislation moves to the floor for a vote and what doesn’t; and to Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, head of the Senate Republican Conference and announced candidate for Republican whip in 2006 if he wins re-election.
ngressional critics of global-warming theories. At a recent congressional hearing, he said, "As long as I am chairman, (regulating the gases that produce global warming) is off the table indefinitely. I don’t want there to be any uncertainty about that." But Barton’s likely replacement would be John Dingell, D-Mich., a fierce advocate for the U.S. automobile industry.
No matter how the elections turn out this year, of course, the connection between money and politicians will survive. Incumbents of both parties know that taking the money out of politics — I mean, really taking it out — would destroy one of most effective tools they have for assuring their own re-election. Taking the money out of campaigns is less likely than the Easter Bunny passing out eggs in January.
So vote your convictions. Throw this year’s bums out. They certainly deserve it. Then watch to see which newly elected politicians start quickly to work to become next year’s bums.