Coal money in politics

From Global Energy Monitor


As of September 2012, total fossil fuel spending on campaign spending has exceeded $153 million. Republicans received 89 percent of the coal industry’s campaign contributions. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chair of the Energy and Commerce committee, has received $60,000 from both major utilities and the coal industry. Another sponsor, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), is the top recipient of coal cash for 2012, receiving over $200,000. The coal industry has also funded a “public awareness” campaign on pro-coal TV ads, arguing the Obama Administration is waging a "war on coal." The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has so spent $12 million of its promised $40 million election-year budget on ads this cycle.[1]


Here is the ranking of the top coal mining company contributors in the 2011-2012 campaign cycle, as of July 2011:[2]

  1. Alpha Natural Resources $127,451
  2. Murray Energy - $111,796
  3. Mepco - $72,700
  4. CONSOL Energy - $59,400
  5. Arch Coal - $58,860 - (plus an additional $13,700 through merger with International Coal Group, for $72,560 total)
  6. Peabody Coal - $57,000
  7. Patriot Coal - $49,200

The coal industry made a total of $8 million in campaign donations from January to June 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.[3]

2010 spending

In October 2010, the New York Times reported that the coal industry, facing a host of new EPA health and safety regulations, is spending millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign donations for the November 2 election to influence the makeup of the next Congress in hopes of derailing what one industry official called an Obama administration “regulatory jihad.” The article found that political spending by the coal industry is on track to exceed that of the 2008 cycle, when the presidency was at stake and Congress was debating climate change regulation.[4]

As of the beginning of October 2010, coal mining companies had collectively contributed nearly $3 million to federal candidates, with three-quarters of the money going to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending. The companies spent about $3.5 million to influence the 2008 elections and it appeared likely that they would surpass that figure in 2010. In addition, the industry has spent more than $24 million on lobbying since the beginning of 2009, nearly as much as it spent in 2007-8. Coal companies, in partnership with utilities and manufacturers under the front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, have spent more than $15 million on advertisements extolling the virtues of coal and seeking support for federal money for research into "cleaner" methods of burning it. The industry’s main Washington lobby, the National Mining Association, is likewise on pace to set records for political spending in 2010.[4]

Among the largest recipients of coal money are Republican and Democratic members who have sponsored or voted for measures to block new EPA regulations on climate change pollution from the burning of coal and oil and who are most likely to support efforts to block other new rules. These members include Representatives Roy Blunt of Missouri and Joe Barton of Texas, both Republicans, as well as Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Rick Boucher of Virginia, both Democrats. Each had received more than $25,000 in contributions as of early October 2010, according to CRP. Two Senate candidates, Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Gov. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, have also received sizable industry donations. The political action committee of Representative John Boehner of Ohio, who is in line to become speaker if Republicans capture the House, has received more than $300,000 from mining interests, most of it from coal companies. The industry is counting on Mr. Boehner to reverse the current Democratic leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on the measure blocking EPA greenhouse gas regulation.[4]

The article noted that coal company spending is still dwarfed by the far better-financed oil and gas, electric utility, financial services and health care lobbies.[4]

European corporations support coal-friendly candidates

In 2010, an analysis of campaign finance by Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe), Thinking Globally, Sabotage Locally, found nearly 80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms --and large greenhouse gas emitters -- were directed towards US senators who blocked action on climate change.[5][6]The report used information on the Open database to track what it called a co-ordinated attempt by some of Europe's biggest polluters to influence the US midterms: "The European companies are funding almost exclusively Senate candidates who have been outspoken in their opposition to comprehensive climate policy in the US and candidates who actively deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by people."

The CAN Europe report said the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe's biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party Patriots bankrollers, David Koch and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns. The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate skeptics in the Senate, such as James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.[6]

The following contributions were reported by CAN Europe:[5]

Interest by foreign corporations in United States midterm elections is not restricted to Europe. A report by the Center for American Progress tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern companies.[7] The Guardian also reported earlier in 2010 that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group called Coalition for Responsible Regulation that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[6]

Obama and Democrats have accused corporate interests and anonymous donors of trying to hijack the midterms by funnelling money to the Chamber of Commerce and to conservative Tea Party groups. On October 7, 2010, Obama told a rally in Maryland, "Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won't tell you where the money fro their ads comes from."[8] R. Bruce Josten of the Chamber of Commerce denied Obama's allegations, stating that the group "has never and will never" use dues collected from overseas business councils for U.S. political activities.[8] The Chamber of Commerce reportedly has raised $75m (£47m) for pro-business, mainly Republican candidates. Much of the speculation has focused on Karl Rove, the strategist of George Bush's victories, who has raised $15m for Republican candidates since September through a new organisation, American Crossroads. According to an NBC report, Rove was spearheading an effort to inject $250 million in television advertising for Republican candidates in the final days before the November 2 elections.[6]

Financial analyst calls coal big winner in 2010 elections

After the November 2010 mid-term elections, financial analyst Jim Cramer wrote: "I know who the biggest winner was last night: coal. Coal put its money on the right candidates. It made some solid investments in people like Roy Blunt of Missouri, Joe Barton of Texas, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Ohio's Rob Portman and West Virginia's Joe Manchin. All received sizable donations from the industry. All won big. That's on top of the $300,000 the mining 'interests' gave the political action committee of John Boehner, the speaker-elect from Ohio. (All according to The New York Times.)"[9]

Kramer continued: "So go buy Peabody (BTU). Here's why: Gridlock may be a recipe for getting nothing big done, but the people coal put its money behind have a simple to-do list, a simple favor list, and that's to get the Environmental Protection Agency to back down so the coal companies can make more money. Oops, wait a second. I didn't mean to tell the truth so starkly. There's always a way you can justify taking coal's money while being thoughtful. In this case, the pols always say the EPA will cost us jobs and hurt our domestic security if it cracks down on coal. Unfortunately, any rigorous analysis would tell you that isn't true." Regardless, Kramer said this means the EPA and Congress will end up doing a compromise where the EPA only goes after the most egregious coal mining practices, like mountaintop removal, which Peabody is not engaged in as heavily as other companies.[9]

2011: House Republicans vote to limit numerous EPA coal regulations

On Feb. 19, 2011, House Republicans - with zero Democratic support, and only three Republican dissenters (Jones (NC), Flake (AZ), Campbell (CA)) - approved a number of amendments to the budget bill (H.R. 1) that would prevent the EPA from updating rules on mountaintop removal permitting, coal ash storage, emissions of particulate matter, and a variety of other Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act safeguards. They also voted to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.[10]

Coal Advocacy Groups

According to CQ Politics, between 2002 and 2007, the coal advocacy group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, the predecessor of American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, spent an average of $93,000 each year on federal lobbying. In 2008, ACCCE spent $9.9 million on federal lobbying in addition to $38 million for an ad campaign promoting "clean coal."[11]

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) estimated ACCCE's lobbying expenses at a somewhat higher amount: $10,465,276 in 2008.[12]. CPI's "The Climate change Lobby" database lists ACCE's 2008 lobbyists, based on public records, as:

According to CPI:

  • PACs and individuals employed by the 48 mining, manufacturing, rail and utility companies that are a part of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) contributed $15.6 million to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle.
  • 87 percent of all members of Congress collected money from ACCCE members.
  • Neither House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), nor his Global Warming Subcommittee chair, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), received money from PACs or employees of the coalition's members, though both ascended to their committee posts after the election.

Also, CPI reports that "the draft climate legislation by Waxman and Markey who only a year ago pushed for a moratorium on new coal plants offers the industry a pathway forward and provides billions for clean coal research."[16]

Mining Industry Donations

Generally speaking, Republicans receive far more campaign contributions than Democrats in Congress from the mining industry as a whole (this includes coal, copper and all natural resources related to hard rock mining). From 1990 to 2010, of the total money donated to each party, 76 percent went to Republicans and 23 percent went to Democrats. In all, $32,055,558 went to Republicans and $9,852,438 went to Democrats.[17]

For the coal mining specifically, totals are similar. Republican receive on average 79 percent of total contributions from the coal mining industry. From 1990 to 2010, Republicans received $17,817,662 from the coal mining industry. Democrats during that same time period received $4,659,565. However, the percentage of contributions to Democrats since 2000 has increased by 20 percent. 2000 and 2002 were peak years for coal mining campaign contributions.[18]

In the coal mining lobby donated $10,423,347 to members of Congress. Of that, the top three major contributors included Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy and Peabody Energy.[19]

Mining Industry Invests in Politicians to Stop Mining Safety Law

In April 2010 released data on the United States Mining Industry's donations to politicians. As MapLight explained:

  • In June of 2007, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S-MINER) Act, which, according to the Congressional Research Service, would have supplemented existing mining provisions in the Federal Mine Act to require: "(1) emergency response plans to incorporate new technology; (2) the Secretary of Labor to require the installation of rescue chambers in underground coal mines; and (3) accident response plans to provide for the maintenance of refuges." Miller chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, which issued a report stating: "The S-MINER Act aims to prevent disasters and, in cases where disasters do occur, to improve emergency response. It also aims to reduce long-term health risks facing miners, such as black lung." Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) explained the bill was necessary because the 2006 MINER Act provisions had not been effectively enforced. “So far, I am concerned that the slow pace of reform is leaving America's miners at risk. We've made progress. But [the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA)] has not moved aggressively to implement all of the provisions of the MINER Act.”[20]

After a series of amendments the bill ended up in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. There, HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, chaired by Sen. Murray, met to consider the bill but no action was ever taken. The bill in the House also did not pass, reports

  • For the House vote, 25 House Democrats and nearly all House Republicans voted against the bill. On average, House opponents received 103 percent more money from mining interests than House members voting Yes (an average of $12,526 to each member voting No, $6,174 to each voting Yes). Democrats voting No received 197 percent more money from mining interests than their colleagues voting Yes (an average of $16,314 to each Democrat voting No, $5,489 to each voting Yes).
  • Seven House Republicans, including West Virginia's Shelley Capito, supported passage of the bill, although they received little campaign funding from unions, the primary special interest found to be supporting the bill.[20]

Below is a table that shows the contributions (2003-2008) from Interest Groups that supported and opposed the S-MINER Act to members of the Senate HELP Committee in the 110th Congress.[20]

Critics argued that the passage of the bill may have prevented the April 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in West Virgina.[21]

Contributions (2003-2008) from Interest Groups that Supported and Opposed the S-MINER Act to Members of the Senate HELP Committee in the 110th Congress

Senate HELP Committee Member Party State State Rank in Mining Production $ From Supporting Interest Groups $ From Opposing Interest Groups
Isakson, John Republican GA 20th $0 $97,500
Murray, Patty Democrat WA 32nd $42,000 $74,141
Hatch, Orrin Republican UT 6th $0 $73,350
Murkowski, Lisa Republican AK 10th $0 $72,850
Enzi, Michael Republican WY 3rd $0 $68,600
Burr, Richard Republican NC 26th $0 $63,449
Alexander, Lamar Republican TN 28th $0 $45,800
Roberts, Pat Republican KS 25th $0 $40,300
Bingaman, Jeff Democrat NM 16th $10,000 $33,400
Clinton, Hillary Democrat NY 24th $24,500 $22,700
Coburn, Thomas Republican OK 31st $0 $22,299
Gregg, Judd Republican NH 47th $0 $11,800
Dodd, Christopher Democrat CT 44th $18,500 $9,000
Allard, Wayne Republican CO 12th $0 $7,500
Obama, Barack Democrat IL 19th $29,500 $7,000
Brown, Sherrod Democrat OH 21st $65,250 $6,000
Harkin, Thomas Democrat IA 33rd $23,850 $5,550
Mikulski, Barbara Democrat MD 29th $26,000 $4,500
Reed, John Democrat RI 49th $11,000 $4,000
Kennedy, Edward Democrat MA 39th $4,500 $0
Sanders, Bernard Independent VT 48th $46,800 $0
Total $301,900 $669,739


  1. Rebecca Leber, [ "The GOP’s ‘War On Coal’ Myth, Brought To You By Millions In Coal Cash," Climate Progress, Sep 20, 2012.
  2. "Coal Mining", accessed July 25, 2011.
  3. Brody Mullins, "Coal Industry Backs Boehner" Wall Street Journal, Sep. 13, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 John Broeder, "Coal Industry Spending to Sway Next Congress" NY Times, Oct. 29, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Thinking Globally, Sabotage Locally, Climate Action Network Europe, October 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Suzanne Goldberg, "Tea Party climate change deniers funded by BP and other major polluters" BBC, Oct. 24, 2010.
  7. Lee Fang, "Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads," ThinkProgress, October 5, 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 [Dan Eggen, "Chamber and Democrats battle over the midterms and election spending," Real Clear, October 8, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jim Cramer, "Coal is election's big winner" MSN, Nov. 3, 2010.
  10. "House Passes Dangerous Budget In The Dark Of Night" Appalachian Voices, Feb. 21, 2011.
  11. Coral Davenport, "Coal Industry Digs in with Lobbying Campaign" CQ Weekly - Politics, 3/21/09
  12. "Mining and Coal", Center for Public Integrity, accessed March 2009.
  13. "American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity", Center for Public Integrity, accessed March 2009.
  14. "American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity: Quinn Gillespie & Associates ", Center for Public Integrity, accessed March 2009.
  15. "American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity:The Keelen Group", Center for Public Integrity, accessed March 2009.
  16. "CPI: Coal Industry Launched "Unprecedented Corporate Campaign", accessed January 27, 2010.
  17. "Long-term Mining Contribution Trends", accessed January 27, 2010.
  18. "Coal Mining: Long-Term Contribution Trends", accessed January 27, 2010.
  19. "Coal Mining: Long-Term Contribution Trends", accessed January 27, 2010.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Mining Industry Invests in Politicians; Stopped Mine Safety Law", accessed April 14, 2010.
  21. Emily Calhoun,"Mining Industry Invested in Politicians - Stopped Safety Laws" Progressive Democrats of America, accessed April 14, 2010.

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