Oil and gas companies and electric utilities over the past two decades have poured $8 million into the campaign coffers of lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee who could now look to shape climate legislation.
Senators on the committee also have received campaign money from other segments of the energy industry that would be affected by a sweeping climate and energy bill, including wind, solar, coal, nuclear power, steel manufacturing and the forest and paper industry.
All told, those likely to be affected by climate and energy legislation for the current election cycle have given nearly $390,000 to Democrats on the Finance Committee and nearly $251,000 to Republican members, an E&E analysis of campaign contributions shows.
Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has indicated the panel will likely rewrite and vote on the portion of the climate bill that caps carbon emissions and lets businesses buy and sell emissions permits. Any rewrite would affect a broad cross-section of businesses now giving contributions.
“Companies have a lot to win or lose with legislative outcomes, and they are clearly positioning themselves to be winners,” said Tyson Slocum, director of watchdog group Public Citizen’s energy program.
“It’s all an effort to get access,” Slocum added. “That’s what making campaign contributions provides you, is enhanced access with members of Congress. It doesn’t guarantee outcomes but it increases your odds of being able to influence the outcomes.”
The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over much of the structure of a cap-and-trade program including how much companies will be able to bank emissions permits in one year and use in another, and whether free permits given to companies could be turned into a kind of security that could be bundled and sold like mortgages, said Kenneth Green, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Baucus has said he might want to look at how any free greenhouse gas emission allowances would be doled out to regulated industries.
“There are two reasons for a company to donate,” to a political campaign, Green said. “One, they are hoping to make a profit either selling carbon credits, or having their competitor disadvantaged. Or, two, they are staring high costs in the face and they want to get something in the bill to reduce the costs.”
The Finance panel is one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, and a good portion of those on the committee have been in the Senate at least 20 years, the time period over which the oil and gas industry has given a combined total of at least $5.6 million to those now on the committee, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Electric utilities gave at least $2.4 million during that same period.
Lincoln, Grassley are tops