Common Cause/NY: Hydrofracking Backers Contribute Heavily to State Campaigns

Pro-fracking forces keep ponying up

Hydrofracking backers continue to contribute despite standstill

Albany Times-Union

Rick Karlin

July 22, 2013

The debate over whether New York should allow hydrofracking continues to rage, and there is no clear timetable for a decision.

That hasn’t stopped the campaign contributions from fracking supporters, according to an analysis that finds 183 people, companies and other organizations contributed more than $14 million to state and local politicians as well as to political parties since 2007.

“Powerful businesses and industries, which stand to benefit from fracking use campaign contributions to gain influence with their local lawmakers, candidates and party organizations. We see a wide spectrum of fracking related interests taking full advantage of New York’s lax campaign finance laws,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. The group, which released the findings on Monday, pointed to the expenditures as evidence that the state’s liberal contribution limits need to be overhauled in favor of a public financing system, similar to what exists in New York City.

Common Cause is a leading advocate of changing the campaign finance laws and it released the report with Fair Elections for New York campaign.

The group also said the contributions should be examined by the Moreland Commission that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has empowered to scrutinize various aspects of political giving.

A fracking supporter, however, charged Common Cause with slanting the findings.

“Common Cause is skillful in presenting cherry-picked data to fit an anti-drilling narrative,” said Jim Smith, spokesman for the state Independent Oil and Gas Association. “They are not an objective or reliable source on this issue.”

Common Cause conceded it used a broad definition of pro-fracking entities. That included “engineering firms, pipeline owners, chemical companies, construction industry organizations and unions, law firms with oil and gas practices, and other affiliated members of pro-fracking organizations.”

The group also included in its count business lobbies like the Business Council of NYS and Unshackle Upstate.

The biggest recipient of pro-fracking dollars was the GOP-Coalition-led state Senate, which received nearly $3.9 million.

Individual senators, Tom Libous of Binghamton, who is deputy Republican leader, and Democrat George Maziarz of western New York, received the most pro-fracking money, $353,000 and almost $169,000, respectively since 2007.

In high-volume horizontal hydraulic hydrofracking, drillers use pressure, water, special chemicals and sand to extract natural gas that is deep within underground rock formations. Supporters say it has yielded a bounty of untapped resources, but opponents fear the potential harm to groundwater supplies as well as the societal impact that an energy boom would bring to rural upstate.

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