An updated report from a good-government group says “pro-fracking interests” spent $64.7 million on campaign contributions and lobbying in New York since 2007, outspending their counterparts opposed to shale-gas drilling in New York.
Common Cause/NY’s latest “Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets” report looks at spending in Albany over the past several years, finding that the vast majority spent by groups in favor of fracking was on lobbying — a total of $48.9 million. Anti-fracking interests, meanwhile, spent $7.1 million over the same time period, according to the report.
But that figure includes a very broad definition for “pro-fracking interests,” including companies like LeChase Construction in Rochester and organizations like the New York Farm Bureau, whose interests aren’t primarily centered on fracking. The “anti-fracking interests” includes the Communication Workers of America, a longstanding politically active union.
When it comes to “direct fracking interests” — companies like Chesapeake Appalachia and ExxonMobil, as well as trade groups like the Independent Oil & Gas Association — a total of $1.1 million on campaign contributions and $15.6 million was spent in New York from January 2007 through July 2013, according to the report.
“Hydraulic fracturing has been one of the most polarizing issues in recent history, with no shortage of political money invested by pro-fracking interests to achieve a favorable outcome,” Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “The persistent and accelerated spending is cause for concern as lawmakers weigh this key decision.”
Among the beneficiaries of contributions from pro-fracking interests, as defined in the report, was Senate Deputy Republican Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, who has been the Legislature’s foremost drilling booster. Libous’ campaign committee received $368,305 since 2007, followed by Senate Energy Committee Chairman George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County, with $193,831.
At the county level, Monroe County party committees, legislators and the executive received a total of $2 million in donations from pro-fracking interests, according to the report. But much of that is from local companies and law firms — such as LeChase Construction and Harris Beach — that have long been politically active, well before the fracking issue became a hot topic in 2008.
Gas-industry groups have long accused anti-fracking organizations of not properly filing their lobbying costs. Most notably, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York filed a complaint against Artists Against Fracking, a group led by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, for not filing any lobbying reports despite the group’s involvement in a comment-writing drive to the state’s now-defunct proposal for fracking regulations.
Common Cause’s report is funded by the Park Foundation, an Ithaca-based philanthropic fund that has issued grants to dozens of groups opposed to fracking in New York. Since 2009, the foundation has issued about $5 million to fracking critics, Gannett’s Albany Bureau has reported.
Common Cause has received more than $200,000 from the Park Foundation since 2009, though its report says Park had no influence over its findings.
“The research we conduct and how it is presented is determined solely by Common Cause/NY,” the report reads. “We have never received any suggestions or pressure from the foundation regarding the content or findings of our reports.”
Here’s the full Common Cause report: