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Fossil fuel companies donating heavily to Republican candidates in US Congress Special Elections

Fossil Fuel Companies Spend Big to Boost GOP in Heated Special Elections for Congress  Saturday, May 06, 2017By Alex Kotch, Truthout | Report President Donald Trump nominated several sitting Congress members to lead federal agencies, and high-profile elections to fill their vacated seats are under way. The election to fill CIA director Mike Pompeo’s Kansas House seat took place on April 11, 2017, and a Bernie Sanders-supporting Democratic candidate came within seven points of the Republican winner in a heavily red district that hasn’t gone blue since 1992. In a Georgia election to fill Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s seat on April 18, young Democrat Jon Ossoff took 48 percent of the vote, not quite enough to avoid a runoff against Republican Karen Handle, scheduled for June 20. An election to fill the House seat of former Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, now Secretary of the Interior, is coming up on May 25 in another district that has reliably voted Republican but is now in play after Trump’s exceedingly unpopular first 100 days.

These elections are the first since Trump took office, and their results may represent Americans’ discontent with their new leader, whose record-low approval rating is now at about 42 percent. A Democratic win in any of the upcoming races could give the fractured party a much-needed boost as it prepares its 2018 campaigns in hopes of taking back the House and hampering the White House agenda.

In Georgia and Montana, independent political spending groups are shelling out millions of dollars to aid their favorite candidates. A Truthout investigation finds that among the biggest funders of the outside groups backing Republican candidates are fossil fuel companies, which tend to favor conservatives who will join the Trump administration in rolling back environmental regulations that limit their profits. Oil, gas and coal companies and trade groups, including Arch Coal, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, have bankrolled conservative nonprofits that are spending millions of dollars to elect Republicans in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and Montana’s at-large congressional district. In the Georgia race, GOP-aligned political groups have accounted for roughly 94 percent of the huge amount of outside spending, yet Ossoff has a good shot at winning.

An Explosion of Outside Spending in Georgia

Combined outside spending for the primary and runoff elections so far is at nearly $14 million — it’s on track to be the most expensive congressional race ever.

The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC founded in 2011 to boost Republican House candidates and funded by private interests, will spend at least $6.5 million in the GA-06 race, the most of any outside group. The committee has already reported independent expenditures of $4 million opposing Ossoff in Georgia. These funds translate into television advertisements, mail and digital ad campaigns and a get-out-the-vote ground game.

Since its founding, CLF has relied on conservative millionaires and billionaires and large corporations for its funds. So far in 2017, the group has reported receiving $250,000 from oil giant Chevron and $3.5 million from the American Action Network (AAN), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and CLF’s sister organization that is also partially funded by the fossil fuel industry. While 2017 data is not yet available, AAN has taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the industry over the years, including $250,000 from the American Petroleum Institute in 2012 and $35,000 from the American Natural Gas Alliance in 2010, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics………..

Fossil fuel spending outside of political races is also seeing a major uptick, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Not only did oil, gas and coal companies and their executives provide 10 percent of Trump’s inauguration funds — a huge increase from the companies’ share of funds for Barack Obama’s second inauguration — they also spent 11 percent more on lobbying during the first quarter of 2017 than they did during the same period the year before.

The spending seems to be working, as Trump and his cabinet appear dedicated to doing all they can to increase profits for fossil fuel companies. Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have already slashed environmental regulations including the Stream Protection Rule, rolled back the Clean Power Plan, and sped up fossil fuel projects, including the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Zinke, who as interior secretary is in charge of conserving federal land, overturned a moratorium on coal leasing of federal lands in March and supports opening up these lands to more oil and gas exploration.

As the Georgia and Montana elections near, look for the dirty energy industry to keep the funds flowing.


May 8, 2017 - Posted by | politics, USA

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