Groups turn spotlight on drillers' campaign cash
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HARRISBURG -- Energy companies that have been drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania have also been pumping sizable contributions into the campaign coffers of state politicians in an effort to avert proposed extraction taxes, citizen watchdog and environmental groups said today.
"The natural gas industry made $2.85 million in campaign contributions to Pennsylvania candidates (and) political action committees between Jan. 1, 2001, and March 29, 2010," said Common Cause/Pennsylvania Director Barry Kauffman, who was joined by officials from the League of Women Voters, Penn Future and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a liberal group.
Most of the big recipients of the gas industry largesse were politicians from Western Pennsylvania. No. 1 on the list was Attorney General Tom Corbett of Shaler, the leading Republican candidate for governor in next Tuesday's primary, at $361,000, with 93 percent of this money coming since January 2008.
Other large recipients included Lt. Gov. Joe Scarnati of Jefferson, who's also the top GOP state senator, $105,000; Gov. Ed Rendell, $84,000; Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, a Democratic candidate for governor, $59,000; state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, $57,000; state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, almost $50,000; Auditor General Jack Wagner, also a Democratic candidate for governor, $44,500; Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, $33,800; state Rep. Bill DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, $29,000; House GOP Whip Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods, almost $26,000; Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, $24,000; and state Sen. John Pippy, $21,000.
Mr. Kauffman said he fears the large contributions will buy the energy companies influence with the Legislature, especially in efforts to block creation of a severance tax, aka an extraction tax, on natural gas pumped from areas of Marcellus shale. Mr. Kauffman said he's also concerned about the companies' attempt to stop legislative efforts to protect the environment and underground drinking water from drilling-related damage and efforts to help municipalities pay to fix roads damaged by drilling equipment.
First Published May 11, 2010 3:41 pm