Sen. Lisa “dirty air” Murkowski now top fundraiser from utility industry

Plus the NY Times on “Ms. Murkowski’s Mischief”

One of the Senate’s most vocal critics of U.S. EPA’s climate rules is also Congress’ top recipient of campaign funds from the electric utility industry.

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who was elected to Senate GOP leadership last year and holds a key post on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received more campaign contributions from the utility industry than any other lawmaker during the 2009–2010 election cycle, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Last year, Murkowski received $157,000 from electric utilities, and since 2005, she has received more than $244,000, according to the center’s data.

So Greenwire (subs. req’d) reported yesterday in its piece “Senate’s top EPA critic raked in utilities’ campaign cash.”


We’ve also learned in the past week just who Murkowski has been getting help from for her dirty air amendment (see Polluters work with Lisa “fiddle while Nome burns” Murkowski on amendment to thwart EPA GHG regulations that might help save her state).

Today the NY Times editorialized on “Ms. Murkowski’s Mischief”:

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s home state of Alaska is ever so slowly melting away, courtesy of a warming planet. Yet few elected officials seem more determined than she to throw sand in the Obama administration’s efforts to do something about climate change….

Ms. Murkowski says she’s concerned about global warming but worries even more about what she fears would be a bureaucratic nightmare if the E.P.A. were allowed to regulate greenhouse gases. She says she would prefer a broad legislative solution. So would President Obama. But unlike Ms. Murkowski, he would not unilaterally disarm the E.P.A. before Congress has passed a bill.

Judging by the latest and daffiest idea to waft from Ms. Murkowski’s office, she may not want a bill at all. Last fall, the Senate environment committee approved a cap-and-trade scheme that seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on them. The Democratic leadership’s plan is to combine the bill with other energy-related measures to broaden the base of support; by itself, it cannot pass.

Knowing that the bill is not ripe, Ms. Murkowski may bring it up for a vote anyway as an amendment to the debt bill. Why? To shoot it down. The tactic would give us a “barometric reading” of where the Senate stands on cap-and-trade, one Murkowski staffer said recently. What it really gives us is a reading on how little the senator “” or for that matter, her party “” has to offer.

Returning to the Greenwire piece, we learn that Murkowski has received money from many other dirty energy industries besides utilities:

She received $142,000 from the oil and gas industry last year, making her that industry’s No. 3 recipient behind Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and David Vitter (R-La.). Since 2005, oil and gas interests contributed more than $172,000 to her campaign.

Murkowski has also received money from mining and pipeline operations.

Several of her top campaign contributors since 2005 include: Edison Chouest Offshore, Constellation Energy Group Inc., Southern Co., Van Ness Feldman and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Van Ness Feldman, a lobbying shop, in 2009 represented many energy clients, including American Electric Power Co. Inc., the National Alliance of Forest Owners, and Cellulosic Biofuel Working

And now we know she’s been working directly with dirty-energy lobbyists on crafting her dirty-air amendment (see also Politico: “Lobbyists led meeting on Murkowski EPA amendment”):

Murkowski’s critics say the senator’s ties to a Washington lobbyist offer clear evidence that industry is wielding a heavy hand in influencing her attempts to stall EPA rules.

The Washington Post reported last week that Jeff Holmstead, an energy lobbyist and former EPA air chief during the George W. Bush administration, advised Murkowski’s office on a failed 2009 amendment that sought to block EPA from imposing greenhouse gases from stationary sources for one year.

Two of Holmstead’s clients — Southern Co. and Duke Energy Corp. — are among Murkowski’s top contributors. During her career, Southern has given the senator $26,000, while Duke has contributed $24,000. At least five other clients of Holmstead have also contributed to Murkowski’s campaign in recent years, federal lobbying reports show. Those companies include Ameren Corp., Arch Coal, CSX Corp., Energy Future Holdings and Progress Energy Inc.

The piece has some hard-hitting quotes from public watchdog groups on the apparent influence-peddling by polluters:

Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said that while he doubts that Murkowski’s efforts to handcuff EPA are entirely based on her campaign contributions, “it’s hard to avoid the impression that it’s a factor.”

“I don’t believe you can buy a senator for $50,000, but you can certainly rent one,” O’Donnell said….

“Not only do we have campaign contributions, but now we have evidence of active legislative collaboration by a lobbyists representing special interests,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen.

Said O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, “I think it makes Murkowski’s amendment positively radioactive, because it makes it look like she’s simply carrying water for businesses that gave her money.”

The Senate needs to kill this polluter-funded, polluter-crafted pro-pollution amendment.