Scientists like to point out that correlation does not imply causation, but Smokey Bear often warns that where there is smoke there is fire.
That said, Maplight, a nonprofit organization that studies the relationship between money and politics, reported that California state senators who voted a week ago against a moratorium on the controversial oil and gas drilling process called fracking raked in, on average, 14.2 times more money in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry than those who favored it.
Senators voting “No” or not voting at all received average contributions 11.8 times higher than “Yes” voters.
Senate Bill 1132 died in a final 16-16 vote to resuscitate it on May 29, the day after an 18-16 vote in its favor fell three votes short of the 21 needed in the 40-member chamber. In that first crucial vote, 12 Republicans were helped by four Democrats who voted “No” and six who didn’t vote.
Maplight made its computation based on the second tally, which included two Democratic senators who switched their votes from “Yes” to “Abstain.” The organization did not count the three Democrats who couldn’t vote because they are suspended from the Senate for various transgressions, alleged and otherwise. And for some reason, Maplight did not include Republican Jim Nielsen, who voted “No” both times.
The 15 counted Senators who voted against the moratorium received, on average, $25,227 from oil and gas interests between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2012. Those who voted for the moratorium averaged $1,772 and abstainers, $7,930.
All members of the GOP voted “No.” Republican Jeanne Fuller was the largest recipient of industry largesse, pulling in $52,300. She was followed by fellow Republicans Mimi Walters ($51,000), minority leader Bob Huff ($45,550) and Anthony Cannella ($40,150). The four Democrats who voted “No” averaged $18,200.
Only one person voting against the moratorium received zero dollars from the industry: Republican Andy Vidak, a vociferous supporter of fracking from the Bakersfield area who was only recently elected to the Senate in an August 2013 special election.
All of the “Yes” votes were from Democrats and five of them received no money from oil and gas interests. Senator Alex Padilla topped the list with $8,750, followed by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg ($5,900) and his named successor, Kevin de Leon ($4,500).
SB 1132 would have imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until it was proven safe. Fracking uses enormous amounts of highly-pressurized water, toxic chemicals and other materials to blast apart rock formations to reach oil and gas deposits that would otherwise be out of reach. It has been linked to groundwater contamination, air pollution, releases of methane gas, micro-earthquakes and sinkholes.