The 2014 midterm elections saw a wave of Republican candidates elected and re-elected to federal office, many of whom are now rearing to make the environment their first casualty of the 114th Congress. As it turns out, the fossil fuel industry may have had something to do with that.
Taking into account direct contributions to individuals and groups, spending on television ads and lobbying, the energy industry spent more than $721 million during the 2014 election cycle, according to an analysis released Monday by the Center for American Progress.
That analysis — conducted with data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Kantar Media Intelligence — found that the industry as a whole gave $84 million to candidates, political parties and Political Action Committees (PACs), spent $163 million on television ads, and paid nearly $500 million to Washington lobbyists in the two years leading up the elections.
Environmental organizations also spent a great deal of money during the 2014 midterm elections. However, the money was spent differently, and altogether amounted to a fraction of energy industry contributions.
According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, environmental groups spent about $43 million on lobbying, while individual candidates and PACs received a combined $11.7 million since 2012. Unregulated “soft money” contributions made up the bulk of donations, with those groups receiving a combined $87 million from environmentalists. It is unclear how much the environmental movement spent on television ads this year.
The Center For American Progress’ report on fossil fuel industry donations did not include soft money. However, the Center For Responsive Politics estimates the coal, oil and gas, mining, and electric utility industries gave about $55 million in soft money donations since 2012.
In 2014, the oil and gas industry represented the fifth-largest lobbying interest in Washington. Electric utilities were the sixth-largest. The environmental advocacy industry did not crack the top 20 list.
The number of environmental lobbyists’ clients in Washington also trailed the number of energy industry lobbying clients. The Center for Responsive Politics notes that the environment was the seventh-biggest issue this year in terms of the number of lobbying clients, while energy and natural resources was the sixth-biggest.
And of course, the battle of the billionaires: The anti-renewable energy Koch Brothers were estimated to have spent anywhere from $100 million to $300 million on the 2014 midterms through its various organizations, while environmentalist (and Center for American Progress board member) Tom Steyer is said to have spent about $74 million personally.
The energy industry has nearly always been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to money in politics. But even though the environmental movement’s money still lagged behind the fossil fuel industry’s this year, it came closer to matching the energy industry’s donations than ever before. In 2014 alone, the Center for Responsive Politics put environmental political spending at around $83 million, and fossil fuel spending at around $100 million. That’s a very small gap compared to 2012, when it’s estimated that the fossil fuel industry spent $143 million, and environmentalists spent $16 million.
Check out the graphs below for the comparison: