Center for American Progress

Fossil-Fuel Industry Spending in the Midterm Elections

Fossil-Fuel Industry Spending in the Midterm Elections

The coal, oil, and gas industries spent more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in the 2014 election cycle. The question is: What will be the return on that investment?

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idea light bulbA legislative rider that was quietly attached to a major defense funding bill earlier this month marked a watershed change in the political fortunes of the coal, oil, and gas industries and their return to power in Washington, D.C. The rider—which turns the Bull Mountains in Montana over to a Koch-connected, Houston-based company to be strip mined for coal—is the fossil-fuel industry’s first major payoff from a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar investment to secure Republican control of Congress and to set the stage for a pro-coal, pro-drilling, and anti-environment agenda in the new year.

With Congress largely deadlocked, oil, gas, and coal interests have increasingly focused their resources over the past two years on putting industry-friendly politicians in charge of both chambers and laying the groundwork for the new Congress to advance special-interest priorities such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline and increasing the export of American oil to foreign buyers. According to an analysis of contributions and lobbying data from the Center for Responsive Politics and advertising spending data from Kantar Media Intelligence/CMAG, as published by the Atlas Project, the fossil-fuel industry directly invested $721 million—and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars more through contributions to outside groups—in order to secure a Congress of its choosing and a friendly energy agenda. Of these investments, the fossil-fuel industry directly contributed more than $64 million to candidates and political parties, spent more than $163 million on television ads across the country, and paid almost $500 million to Washington lobbyists in the two years leading up to the November 2014 elections.

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