Last year, Ethics Watch published Spend Baby Spend, a report looking at the oil and gas industry’s spending on lobbying and elections in Colorado. This new report, Money Spill, looks at oil and gas spending in the 2014 election cycle that just concluded.
Looking only at disclosed spending – not spending by dark-money nonprofits or trade associations – 2014 saw a titanic money spill compared to election spending by the oil and gas industry in the past. While our 2013 report showed that oil and gas spent over $800,000 on Colorado state elections (not including United States Senate or Congressional elections) over two election cycles (2010 and 2012), this year’s report shows that the industry spent a whopping $11.79 million on the 2014 election for Colorado state offices.
The vast majority of this spending came from a ballot issue committee formed to oppose anti-fracking initiatives that never made the ballot. Even after the anti-fracking initiatives were withdrawn, the industry-funded issue committee spent millions on canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts in 2014.
Even outside of that issue committee, however, oil and gas election spending jumped – from approximately $400,000 to candidates, PACs, 527s and political parties for the 2010 and 2012 election cycles to over $914,000 in 2014.
It remains to be seen whether the oil and gas industry’s investment in Colorado politics pays off. A task force established by the governor to review Colorado oil and gas exploration regulations has not issued any recommendations, and the new General Assembly has just begun.
Our hope is that by shining a light on the oil and gas industry’s investment in the outcome of Colorado’s recent elections, citizens will be better able to hold public officials accountable if they put private industry’s interests over the common good.