Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just who is buying your candidate?

Election season is definitely heating up; much of that heat is being generated by the executives of the many gas companies operating in the state of Pennsylvania.  Did you know that since 2007, gas companies have donated more than $5 million to Pennsylvania's elected officials in order to lobby their cause?  Since 2001, they've donated an additional $3 million to PA political campaigns--on both sides of the political fence.

There's a great new website where you can see exactly how much money has been given to which legislators/candidates going back to 2001.  The details indicate the individual amounts and actual dates of donations.  The site is and it was developed as a joint project between Common Cause PA and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.  You can read their press release from this month's launch by clicking  HERE. 

So are you curious to see just how much Senator Joseph Scarnati accepted in campaign donations from the likes of Chesapeake, Cabot, Dominion, East Resources and their colleagues?  I was.  $117,535 to date.  But he's not the leader of the pack by any means.  That honor is reserved for Tom Corbett, PA's current Attorney General and candidate for Governor.  So far he's raked in over 1/4 million dollars: $372,720 to be exact...and counting.  To date, his political war chest of nearly $8 million more than doubles that of his Democratic rival's.  To hedge their bets however, the natural gas industry has also contributed to Corbett's opponent, Dan Onorato: $74,300.  Onorato's war chest amounted to $3.3 million as of September 13, 2010.

Corbett is currently leading in the polls.  But he's been a vocal opponent of hitting the gas companies with a severance tax on drilling within PA.  He would rather allow them to extract our natural resources, turn around and make enormous profits.  Huh.  Then there's all of those jobs that were supposed to be created by the drilling industry.  Oh they're being created alright.  And they're being filled largely by company men from Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas (think about all the trucks you've seen in our towns with these license plates--or am I the only one?).

Some time ago, an older gentleman was walking along the beach (stick with's related, I promise).  The ocean's tide had deposited hundreds of starfish along the shore.  As he wove his way among them all, he came upon a little boy who was picking up one starfish after another and throwing them back into the ocean.  The man asked the boy, "why are you wasting your time?  There has to be hundreds of starfish all up and down the shore.  Throwing a few more back into the ocean isn't going to make a difference."  The little boy paused, bent down to pick up another one, wound up his pitching arm, and let that starfish fly.  As he watched it arc out over the waves and plunk down into the ocean he replied, "I sure made a difference for that one."

Pennsylvania's election is going to be the "game-changer" the pundits have long been calling the Marcellus Shale itself.  Whoever is elected to office this fall has the opportunity to change Pennsylvania's future in a massive way for decades to come.  It's sad, but traditionally voter turnout is considered a success if 20% of registered voters decide to make the effort to drive into town and cast their votes.  That's right.  In a good year, 20% of registered voters typically decide for the other well as the large numbers of citizens who don't even both to register in the first place.  Do you really want to hand that power over to a stranger?  Don't make the mistake of thinking your one vote won't make a difference.  Register to vote if you haven't already.  Pencil in election day on your calendar.  Make the effort.  It's our right, our civic duty and our privilege.  Vote.  And make sure you vote for the future *you* want....for yourself, for your children, and for your grandchildren.

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