This morning, Oil Change International Executive Director Steve Kretzmann joined Representative John Sarbanes (MD-3) and a coalition of environmental groups to endorse the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20), a legislative proposal to enact a system of public funding for elections that would take back influence in politics from big money donors and put it in the hands of everyday Americans.
A new report by Oil Change International and the Sierra Club, Polluting Our Democracy and Our Environment: Dirty Fuels Money in Politics, demonstrates the enormous amount of campaign finance contributions pouring into Congress by the fossil fuel industry, a problem that is only getting worse. With the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, super-wealthy donors can now funnel unlimited amounts of outside money into political campaigns and elections. As a result of this disastrous ruling, outside spending increased by an enormous 11,761 percent between the 2008 and 2012 elections.
Oil, gas, and coal companies are among the biggest political donors, and their investments in Congress are clearly paying off. For every $1 the fossil fuel industry spends on campaign finance and lobbying, they get $59 back in tax breaks and other subsidies – that’s a 5,800 percent rate of return.
In addition to these huge payoffs, the fossil fuel industry’s disproportional influence in Congress has held back progress on climate change and other environmental legislation, despite the fact that the majority of Americans support such measures. At the industry’s urging, Congress has blocked critically needed climate and energy policies and launched dozens of legislative attacks on existing environmental protections that protect our clean air and water.
With the support of a broad coalition of environmental, labor, and civil rights groups, along with more than 400,000 citizen cosponsors, the Government by the People Act is a chance to take a first important step toward combating corruption and restoring our democracy.