Graph depicting Big Oil Political Contributions
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Description: The average donations that sitting U.S. Senators have received from big oil, separated by party and by whether or not the Senator has publicly disavowed the scientific consensus of anthropocentric global warming (AGW). The data includes all direct donations from all cycles. Also, note that these totals include only direct contributions.

Sources: Open Secrets   Think Progress

Data: Excel

Last updated: January 28, 2015


Political Spending by the Oil and Gas Industry

Discussion: This data does not prove that politicians are changing their views in exchange for payments from oil companies. It certainly could be that some Senators engage in quid-pro-quo trades with oil companies, or more likely, that Senators just find that there is too much financial pressure to resist. But, equally likely is that oil companies simply back candidates who sincerely do not believe that AGW is real. The Supreme Court's decision to prohibit most restrictions on corporate political spending in Citizens United v. FEC was largely based on this distinction. However, in practical terms, it does not matter whether oil companies are distorting election results by picking candidates who sincerely don't believe in AGW or if they are doing it by corrupting candidates who would otherwise express belief in AGW. The result is the same either way- oil company political spending is distorting the policy making process and public opinion towards scientifically unsound policy.

Notably, no Democratic Senator has publicly rejected climate science yet, but note that some Senators from both parties who have not publicly disavowed AGW have nonetheless voted against all or most legislation designed to curb carbon emissions and would therefore not be counted in the right column.

This data only reflects the amount of funds contributed directly to the Senators. The sums do not include any PAC spending or advertising done by the oil companies, which represent much larger sums than the direct contributions. The sums also do not include spending on lobbying and the fossil fuel industry also spends an enormous amount on lobbying both elected officials and the public. Therefore, this data is more useful for seeing the proportions of the spending than the absolute amount, which would be much higher.

Also note that some Senators who have denied AGW have received much more than others. For example, Senator Inhofe- who is now the chair of the Senates subcommittee on the environment- has been a particularly ardent denier of climate science and has received over $1.7 million from oil and gas companies.

See more graphs about: Environment  

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