Big Energy outspends Green groups 29 to 1 in state political giving

Pretend, if you will, that you’re the chair of the Democratic or the Republican party state committee in a critical electoral college state. Like California. Like Florida.

You’re probably wondering: “Politics is expensive. How we gonna pay for all those attack ads we want to run against our political enemies?”

Relax. The energy industry’s got your back.

It funneled nearly $19 million into those two states, and the four top recipients were state Dem and GOP party committees. Between 2003 and 2006, nearly $40 million of energy-interest campaign contributions went to just 10 states — California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Michigan.

That’s according to a just released study by Megan Moore of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The report, called “Energy & Environmental Giving in the States,” is required reading for anyone interested in the flow of political money at the state level. (The institute does for state campaign contributions what the Center for Responsive Politics (at does for federal campaign contributions. The institute has amassed a database of 12 million records of more than $9 billion in contributions.)

Note the other “E” in the report: “Environmental.” Green groups, most notably state chapters of the League of Conservation Voters, shelled out some dollars, too — but nowhere near the spending by pro-energy entities.

Overall, the energy camp spent $58.3 million on state-level political giving. Pro-environment groups gave $2.1 million, or less than 4 percent that given by the oil and gas, electric utility and coal-mining industries. Alternative energy groups could cough up only $564,000.

From the report’s overview:

• Five states were top recipients of both energy-interest and pro-environmental policy money: California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Virginia.
• Republican candidates and party committees collected 75 percent more than Democrats from energy interests while pro-environmental groups contributed almost five times more to Democrats than Republicans.
• Legislative candidates received 56 percent of energy-interest contributions and 73 percent of pro-environmental money.
• Oil and gas companies, coal-mining interests and electric utilities supported more winning candidates than did environmental groups: 86 percent versus 65 percent.
• Energy interests contributed 79 percent of money given to candidates to incumbents, who often win re-election. Pro-environmental policy organizations contributed most often to candidates running for open seats and were more likely than energy interests to take a chance on challengers: 26 percent of environmental group contributions to candidates went to challengers compared to just 4 percent of energy interest money.
• Top recipients of energy-interest contributions tended to be state party committees and gubernatorial candidates while environmental groups contributed large sums to state legislative candidates. The Florida Republican Party was a top recipient of both energy and environmental funds.

Those are the trends in giving. But the amounts given? You can judge for yourself who the big winners are in the state-level money race.

If you study political money carefully, you’ll find that the deep pockets — Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Real Estate, Big Finance, Big Business, Big Anything — have the advantage over Anything Small because the Bigs can place bets on both the Republican and Democratic party challengers and incumbents. That way, they can’t lose.

Small pockets, such as environmental groups, can’t do that as effectively, if at all.

You’ve seen that Big Oil spent $6.1 million on congressional incumbents in the 2006 mid-term elections (earlier post). Given that the Democrats took control of a majority of state legislatures in the mid-terms (earlier post), it behooves us to watch state-level political money as 2008 approaches to see if energy interests try to help the GOP regain those statehouses.

(Curious. The energy folks, at the state level, spent 60 percent of their political money in only 10 states — 10 that represent 224 electoral votes of the 270 need to elect the president.)

xpost: 5th Estate

1 reply »

  1. “Curious. The energy folks, at the state level, spent 60 percent of their political money in only 10 states — 10 that represent 224 electoral votes of the 270 need to elect the president.”

    I doubt it’s curious, Denny – I’m betting there’s some Rove-ian strategy at work there. Direct election needs to be implemented – I was going to say now, but early 2000 would have been better….