Cross posted from Article XI
April 15th represents more than tax day in Virginia politics. It’s also the day that first quarter fundraising reports are due for candidates and Political Action Committees across the Commonwealth. Over the course of the weekend, the good folks at VPAP pulled together the data and the results are now posted online.
Not that anyone is surprised, but the results show what we all already know, that the Energy and Natural Resources industry provides a huge amount of the political capital generated in Virginia. Some of these numbers are astounding. A few quick highlights:
– Energy and Natural Resources funding ranks second behind funding from political committees and the state parties. This number is a little hazy, however, since the parties and so many of the candidates get their money from the Energy and Natural Resources industry.
– Electric Utilities donated more than one-quarter of a million dollars in the first quarter of 2011. Approximately, 80 percent of this funding was from Dominion Resources, but have no fear the electric cooperatives and Appalachian Power also spread their largesse around.
– King Coal made its presence known through $221,633 in gifts in the first quarter. Most of this money went to Governor Bob McDonnell’s PAC, but Senator Phil Puckett was handsomely rewarded for carrying the coal industry’s polluted water with $10,000 from Alpha Natural Resources.
It’s the final bullet on the coal industry’s giving that I find the most telling. The two largest contributions made by the coal industry went to Governor McDonnell. Their total value was $150,000. This left $71,633 from the coal industry to members of the General Assembly, or Political Action Committees. Two members of the General Assembly ranked high above everyone else when it came to filling their coffers with dirty money, Senator Phil Puckett and Delegate Will Morefield.
At first glance, Senator Puckett and Delegate Morefield would appear to have very little in common. Puckett is a Democrat. Morefield is a Republican. Puckett’s been in office since 1998. Morefield has been in office since 2010. Why would these two guys be the coal industry’s two favorite members of the Virginia legislature?
It’s not a tough guess to realize they both live in the coal fields, but this story would seem to go deeper than that. The far more powerful, and still a coal fields resident, Terry Kilgore didn’t receive any money from the coal industry.
After a brief review of Phil Puckett’s introduced legislation from this year six of his 32 total bills benefit the coal industry, and while Morefield is more limited in the number of bills he can file his appreciation of the coal industry is higher in percentage with four of his seven bills benefiting the coal industry.
It’s simple, the coal industry supports both Puckett and Morefield because they are willing to do the industry’s bidding in Richmond.
Do I blame the coal industry for funding their allies? No.
Do I blame Phil Puckett or Will Morefield for accepting polluter money? No.
Then why should I care?
I care because elections matter. When we go to the ballot box in November we can rest assured that the people who buy these elections get results. We as environmentalists, or progressives, need to know who finances the elections we vote in, and we need to know that no matter how much money we give to candidates we are unlikely to match that given by corporate polluters.
No, the only way we’re able to match the industry’s money is through people power. Knocking on doors and making phone calls is our resource. As we begin the long creep to November everyone should watch the money tree and donate their time accordingly.