The real big spenders |

The real big spenders

While Rick Wills’ news story “Natural gas industry rains cash for state lawmakers’ campaigns, lobbying efforts” claiming that natural gas drillers have spent nearly $50 million since 2007 on political campaigns and lobbying efforts may be factual, it lacks perspective. Though $50 million is a lot, it pales in comparison to the $71 million spent by government unions at taxpayers’ expense.

In fact, just a handful of state government unions have spent nearly four times as much on political campaign contributions as the Marcellus shale industry during the same period between 2007 and today: over $30 million versus the drillers’ $8 million.

The lobbying question is more complex, especially since unions have been found to skirt the law before by failing to register as lobbyists with the state or mischaracterizing lobbying expenses as “collective bargaining.” Based on the limited reporting of union lobbying available — and missing 2014 information in most cases — just six government unions matched the $41 million in lobbying spending by gas drillers.

Most troubling of all, unlike the political investments of the Marcellus shale industry, the tens of millions of dollars thrown around by the unions are collected at taxpayer expense, using government payroll systems.

Any report bemoaning the “unwarranted influence” of money in politics would do well to at least mention the real heavyweights in this arena: the government union leadership.

Tom Bako


The writer is a senior engagement and communications officer with the Commonwealth Foundation (

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