Why Am I Not Surprised?


Think Local

By Chris Hoffman

(Sherburne, NY – Jan. 2012) On Jan. 10, Common Cause/NY released a third report in their series on the financial relationship between the gas industry and NYS politicians entrusted with the task of determining policy on hydraulic fracturing.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.  With nearly 400,000 members and supporters and 36 state organizations, Common Cause is “the citizen’s lobbyist,” committed to honest, open and accountable government, with clean elections and ethical standards for elected officials.

The report reveals that between January 2007 and October 2011, the gas industry made 2,349 campaign contributions to state and local politicians and parties in New York, representing more than $1.34 million.

75 percent of the $1.34 million went to Senate and Assembly candidates, with $300,000 going to “soft money accounts” that are allowed to accept unlimited contributions.  $230,557 went to the top ten State Legislative recipients, and Gov. Cuomo’s 2010 campaign received $153,816.

The top 12 gas companies and energy associations contributed over 90 percent of total contributions to the industry.  A mere 7 percent of campaign contributions came from small donors contributing $250 or less.

The top twelve gas industry campaign contributors are:

National Grid – $275,722

Con Edison – $214,232

National Fuel – $193,258

Independent Power Producers of New York – $192,643

Competitive Power Ventures – $89,316

Constellation Energy – $61,674

NYSEG/RG&E/Iberdrola – $60,432

Central Hudson/CH Energy – $29,808

Dominion Resources – $25,250

Independent Oil & Gas Association of NY – $25,210

Chesapeake Appalachia – $24,800

NRG Energy – $22,912

Bet you didn’t know this: NYSEG (New York State Electric and Gas) and RG&E (Rochester Gas and Electric) are subsidiaries of Iberdrola USA, which is a global energy conglomerate based NOT in New York but – wait for it — in Spain!

The gas industry also spent almost $100,000 on various local candidates around the state (including county executives, county legislators, city council members, town supervisors, and mayors) and gave almost $30,000 to county and town level local party committees. Think maybe you should be asking if your local reps received any of this money?

Additionally, The Business Council of New York State, the most influential statewide business lobby, supports fracking the Marcellus and was opposed to the 2010 moratorium bill.

Between January 2007 and October 2011, the gas industry contributed $19,300 to the Business Council PAC, which then contributed over $280,000 to NYS politicians, including $83,750 to Senate Republican soft money, $26,900 to Assembly Democratic soft money, and $9,000 to Cuomo’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The Business Council is also one of New York’s top lobbyists, spending over $3.2 million during this period to influence Albany.

The Unshackle Upstate Campaign, another major business organization that supports fracking, spent $841,783 on lobbying from 2007 to October 2011.

So, here’s the bottom line: while ordinary citizens have been engaging in whatever form of anti-fracking activism suits our particular abilities, for the past four years the industry has been funneling huge amounts of money into political campaigns and government entities to buy influence and a guaranteed vote.  Industry has out-influenced the citizenry by a margin of more than 14:1. Remember the Enron tapes that showed industry hacks and traders laughing and making fun of the consumer as they manipulated the market to Enron’s advantage?  I imagine that this is precisely what all the gas industry lobbyists and CEOs do when they see news coverage of the 23 anti-fracking people who showed up at a SGEIS public hearing.

While we hope and pray that our letters and emails and demonstrations and disparate organizations begging to be heard in Albany will have the desired effect, that our “leaders” will do the right thing and protect us and the land that sustains us, the reality is that there is not a chance in Hell that what we want matters one iota when matched against the massive, powerful, and monied corporate agenda.

If you believe for a New York second that the recipients of industry dollars will consider anything other than what their masters want, you are hopelessly naïve.  If you believe that government regulators will – or can – do their job once pollution and contamination and illness start to show up where drilling is taking place, I can only ask, “what rock have you been living under for the past three decades?”  It’s all about money.  Always was, always will be.  And the rest of us be damned.  For the full report, see commoncause.org/ny/deepdrillingdeeppockets.

Chris Hoffman lives in the village of Sherburne in her 150+ year-old house where she caters to the demands of her four cats, attempts to grow heirloom tomatoes and herbs and reads voraciously. She was instrumental in defeating NYRI’s power lines through her work with STOP NYRI, Inc., and passionately pursues various avenues with like-minded friends to preserve and protect a sustainable rural lifestyle for everyone in Central New York. 


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