Campaign and lobbying reform in Albany—a green issue?
There has been much discussion this legislative session regarding campaign reform—including limiting donations to candidates—and putting caps on lobbying of legislators. This has rarely been viewed as an environmental issue, but this year a broad coalition of environmental and public interest groups known as the Green Panel has made it a priority. The rationale is that sound environmental policy too often falls victim to a legislative logjam – particularly in the State Senate – as impacted industries funnel contributions to prevent bills from ever reaching a floor vote.
As Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter puts it, “Year after year the environmental community has watched key legislative priorities die in Albany because of the millions of dollars in industry lobbying expenses and campaign contributions that insulate decision-makers from doing the right thing. In spite of unprecedented public support, it is difficult to turn the tide against issues like fracking or climate disruption when there is an unfair advantage given to wealthy industries that block even the most basic environmental safe guards and policies. Now more than ever, campaign finance reform must be seen as a critical environmental issue.”
For example, the oil and gas industry spent over $1.5 million in 2010 lobbying NY officials—largely to stop legislation that would put controls on hydrofracking for natural gas. Their efforts have been successful, as these bills never came up for a vote in the Senate, despite passing the Assembly with overwhelming support.
In 2012 the industry increased its spending dramatically, with Exxon Mobil alone putting up $2.1 million for lobbying in NY, making it the second largest spender in the state.
Clearly, the petroleum producers, along with many others who wish to exploit our state’s natural resources, are using their financial clout to influence legislators and keep proenvironmental proposals from even being seriously considered.
What you can do—
Contact your state legislators and tell them that it is time to end the stranglehold these industries have in Albany. Urge them to support campaign and lobby reforms that put in place:
- A new, truly independent oversight and enforcement body.
- Contribution limits lowered for all political committees.
- Rules that clearly ban “pay-to-play” to reduce contribution limits for lobbyists and contractors doing business with the state.
- Improved disclosure requirements.
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