A coalition of advocates called on an anti-corruption panel to probe campaign donations from pro-hydrofracking interests Monday, after a good-government group detailed more than $14 million in contributions to politicians and political parties.
According to Common Cause/NY, a total of 183 entities who support shale-gas drilling donated to campaigns since January 2007, with some of the state Legislature’s top fracking advocates on the receiving end.
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, was the biggest beneficiary, with his campaign taking in $353,205, according to the analysis.
“Powerful businesses and industries which stand to benefit from fracking use campaign contributions to gain influence with their local lawmakers, candidates, and party organizations,” Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “We see a wide spectrum of fracking-related interests taking full advantage of New York’s lax campaign finance laws in the hope of a future payday if fracking is permitted.”
(Of note: Common Cause’s national parent received $215,000 since 2010 from the Park Foundation, an Ithaca-based philanthropic fund who has provided grants to dozens of anti-fracking groups, to fund various iterations of its report. The group also received $100,000 from Park this year for its “Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.”)
A total of 16 pro-drilling entities donated more than $250,000 since 2007, Common Cause found. They’re led by Hiscock & Barclay, an Albany-based law firm and lobbying group that has spent close to $753,000 on campaign donations.
Fair Elections for New York, a coalition of groups pushing for a public campaign finance option in the state, issued a statement calling on the Moreland Commission — an anti-corruption panel empowered last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — to subpoena records involving the donations.
Common Cause’s analysis included donations not just from the gas industry, but from firms, companies and unions who have supported shale-gas drilling. In many cases, the entities have interests in Albany other than fracking, including General Electric and major law firms like Harris Beach. Hiscock & Barclay represents oil-and-gas companies and, through a subsidiary, pro-drilling landowners, along with various other energy, real estate and corporate interests.
If the pro-drilling interests are donating in hopes of getting a green light for high-volume fracking in New York, so far they have been unsuccessful. On Tuesday, a de facto moratorium on large-scale fracking in New York will have been in place for five years.