By Jason Gottesman
Several government watchdog groups held a press conference today in the state Capitol’s main rotunda to release a report detailing campaign and lobbying contributions by the natural gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania, at both the state and federal levels.
Barry Kauffman, of Common Cause PA, said the report details the power of political money in the execution of public policy in government. Reporting a total of $747 million in campaign and lobbying expenditures by the natural gas industry, Kauffman said this money has allowed the industry to exempt itself from strict environmental regulation. A move he said has been made easier by the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.
Kauffman pointed out Congressman Tim Murphy and Senator Pat Toomey have taken the most natural gas money in Pennsylvania and noted three Pennsylvania Congressman that sit on the Congressional oversight committee have received campaign contributions from the industry. He said Pennsylvania is known as the “sweet spot” for natural gas drilling due to the Commonwealth’s lax environmental regulations due to the industry and their affiliated political action committees injecting millions of dollars into officials’ campaign coffers.
Kauffman elucidated that Gov. Tom Corbett has received $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the natural gas industry, including one time donations nearing $150,000. He noted Pennsylvania is one of eleven states that does not regulate campaign contributions and said 228 contributions made, totaling 52 percent of the total value of donations, exceeded federal campaign donation limits. He pointed out these failings are only compounded by gift rules that allow corruption and pointed to all expenses paid trips to the Super Bowl from the natural gas industry taken by Senators Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Tim Solobay (D-Washington).
Kauffman argued for four reforms to make the system better:
· Regulate campaign contributions.
· Require online, public filing of campaign contribution reports.
· Require more campaign contribution disclosures and require quarterly and non-election year filings.
· Make it illegal for lobbyists with policy concerns before government bodies to give gifts.
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