Virginians recognize the importance of Earth Day and climate change advocacy; Let’s discuss the role of campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry


From VAOurWay and the VA Chapter of American Promise, “two nonpartisan groups that champion good governance and transparency in Virginia, while promoting increased public discourse between Commonwealth citizens and their legislators.”

RICHMOND, Va. – As another “Earth Day” comes and goes in Virginia, citizens of the Tidewater area have highlighted their concern about the role of climate change in coastal flooding. Local leaders count more than 200 places of worship in the region that are at risk for the floods. They are not the only ones worried about the adverse effects of climate change. Most Americans and a growing number of business leaders recognize that climate change is an existential threat, and initiatives to reduce the impacts of increased flooding, more variable weather, and higher temperatures are benefiting. growing support.

The exception seems to be the energy and natural resources sector. According to Open Secrets, since 1990, the energy and natural resources sector has poured nearly $1.4 billion into the pockets of lawmakers. The express intent of these donations is to prevent legislation that, in the interest of saving the planet, would affect their bottom line. Of particular concern is the growing amount of “external spending” – spending that is not directly coordinated with legislative campaigns. Of the $223 million in energy sector contributions in the 2020 election, a record $76 million, or 33%, was transferred through SuperPACs and dark money groups. That compares to next to nothing in 2008, the election year before the infamous Citizen’s United Judgment of the Supreme Court. Citizen’s United opened the floodgates for money provided by special interests that now influence our elections.

One of the major donors of fossil fuels to US lawmakers is Koch Industries. It should be noted that nearly two dozen US lawmakers received a total of approximately $110,000 in campaign contributions from Koch Industries in the weeks leading up to Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine. This was clearly a case of black money groups wanting to reduce legislation that would promote action on climate change, and worse, they were prioritizing their own bottom line over our national security.

Virginia small businesses recognize the need for campaign finance reform in the context of climate change, including an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress and states to regulate campaign spending. As the owner of a small architectural firm in Alexandria, Theresa DelNinno, points out in this short video that money from industries tied to fossil fuel interests is “inhibiting the creative development of renewable building technologies” in our state. Businesses are well aware that black money in politics hinders the technological innovation needed to adapt to climate change.

Our public policies, both federal and state, must serve the best interests of Commonwealth citizens. We need the US Congress to pass investment plans for climate and environmental protection solutions. At the same time, we need to get a lot of money out of national politics through a US constitutional amendment. And we need our Virginia lawmakers to pass common-sense campaign finance reform, including a ban on campaign donations from corporations that are overseen by the General Assembly. This includes companies like Dominion Energy, which is the largest corporate donor to Virginia lawmakers, funneling nearly $20 million into election campaigns since 1996. With federal and state campaign finance reforms, we can be better prepared. current and future challenges.

VAOurWay and the VA Chapter of American Promise are both nonpartisan groups that champion good governance and transparency in Virginia, while promoting increased public debate between Commonwealth citizens and their legislators. Follow us on Twitter: @MoneyOutVA and @our_va

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