Numerous recent polls reveal that the American people believe that Congress is more responsive to their campaign donors than their own constituents. In addition, Americans of all affiliations clearly favor ending oil industry handouts. The question is, whose side is Fred Upton on: the American people’s or Big Oil’s?

Rep. Upton is Big Oil’s biggest champion on the newly named Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. All six Republicans on the Committee have consistently voted to preserve oil industry handouts.

Six months into his tenure as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton has stopped even trying to hide his pro-Big-Oil agenda. Upton consistently sides with the oil and gas industry — and it’s clear why.

During his House career, Upton has received $281,350 in oil and gas industry campaign contributions and more than a third that total, $100,700, during the 2010 election cycle. The energy industry is opening their wallets for Upton — in the second quarter of 2011 alone, Upton raised $104,000 in campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal — and its not even an election year.

This may seem like a lot of money, until you consider the return on Big Oil’s investment. The oil industry has spent roughly $280,000 to back Upton and $4 billion is the low end of credible estimates of the value of their subsidies. Eliminating some of the zeroes, would you invest $2.80 to get $40,000 in return? Of course you would. Big Oil could spend a hundred or even a thousand times more on Fred Upton, and it would still be a great bargain for them.

Oil industry lobbyists have made keeping the corporate welfare a top priority. The American Petroleum Institute announced earlier this year that it would for the first time begin directly donating to candidates, adding to the more than $13.6 million the oil industry gave to current members of Congress during the last election cycle.

In July, Upton pushed legislation that would speed up the development of the Keystone XL pipeline through his committee. Common sense would make that a risky political decision, considering what Michiganites have endured since the Enbridge Energy oil spill into the Kalamazoo River that feeds Lake Michigan. But Upton has already shown his disregard for Michigan families by appearing in the front row of an API conference, just six months after the spill of a million gallons of oil into the river running right though his district.

In fact, since taking the chairmanship, Upton has been maneuvering to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Interior, blasting the standards and protections that keep American families safe from the reckless practices of Big Oil companies. And he’s not doing this on behalf of the working men and women of this district. A recent poll from the American Lung Association revealed 65 percent of Michigan and Ohio voters supported stricter EPA limits.

Big Oil is working hard to keep campaign checks flowing and the access they bring open and active. The 2010 increase in funds marked a dramatic shift in Upton’s politics. Unfortunately for regular families, that kind of access is limited if you can’t write a huge check.

So, Upton’s priorities continue to seemingly move away from protecting families and towards pushing the agenda of his financiers.

Is Fred Upton willing to act on behalf of Michigan families for a change? Or will he continue to be Big Oil’s champion? The answer will show us all who Fred Upton really listens to most.


This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.