With less than two months before voters head to the polls, the fossil fuel industry and its ardent supporters have spent an estimated $153 million on television ads, promoting coal and oil as the foundation of America's energy future and highlighting the failures of clean energy companies like Solyndra.
With that kind of money pouring into campaigns this election season, the Sierra Club has launched a counteroffensive to highlight the dubious priorities of Representatives receiving big checks from dirty energy.
Called Toxic Money, Toxic Votes, the campaign is drawing attention to the voting records of six incumbent Congressmen from across the country, some of whom have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil, BP and Shell and all of whom have repeatedly voted for tax breaks for the industry and against tighter environmental regulations.
California's Rep. Dan Lungreen, for example—quoted in a Sierra Club TV ad which aired this week as saying if he could get more money from oil and gas companies, he'd take it—has received more than $455,000 from the industry.
Lungren has also voted to open up more of the nation's coastline for drilling, has opposed increasing oil companies' share of liability when oil spills do occur, and has voted against requiring companies applying for drilling permits to develop and submit a worst-case-scenario oil-spill response plan.
The other incumbents having their pocketbooks and positions scrutinized by the Sierra Club are Mike Coffman (CO-06), Chris Gibson (NY-19), Jim Renacci (OH-6), Bobby Schilling (IL-17) and Quico Canseco (TX-23).
"Whether these incumbents have taken $50,000 or half a million from big oil, each of their records indicates they are more than willing to put the interests of their dirty energy donors before clean air, clean water, and the health of American families," said Courtney Hight, Sierra Club Deputy Political Director.
"Their constituents deserve to hear the truth that fossil fuel money is just as toxic as tobacco money, because the consequences are just as devastating to our government and our health," she added.
Trey Pollard, a spokesperson for Sierra Club, explained that while the current focus was on the upcoming elections, the campaign would not end on November 6.
"We are in this for the long-term and this is just the beginning," he said. "We see this as a multi-cycle effort to get the money from companies who pollute the planet and endanger our health out of politics," he said.
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