How Fossil Fuel Money Fueled Kansas Votes Against Wind Energy
Posted on January 18, 2017
Co-written by Creed Shepard
A 2009 Kansas law on Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) required electric companies to get 20% of their power from wind and other renewable sources by 2020. Fossil fuel interests (FFIs) pushed for repeal from the beginning, led by Κoch Industries of Wichita. They finally succeeded in 2015. However the 2015 repeal was based on a complex deal in which the legislative voting patterns are not very informative about the underlying political interests. In an especially revealing 2014 vote, Kansas senators voted 25-15 for straight-up repeal of RPS on the Senate “gut and go”substitute1 for HB2014. The votes supporting repeal strongly reflected campaign contributions received directly from FFI corporations2 during the 2012 general election. Below, we look at contributions for the general election of that year.
Out of the fifteen Senators who voted nay, 8 were Democrats, none of whom received any FFI money. Of the 7 Republicans voting nay, 3 did not and 4 did receive money from Koch Industries. Every Senator from either party who received no money from Koch Industries voted nay. Every Senator who voted yay was a Republican and took FFI money, and all but one took Koch money.
Koch Industries alone accounted for slightly more than half (50.1%) of all FFI corporate contributions (followed by Sunflower Electric Power Corporation at 17.5%). Koch Industries gave the maximum allowed general election contribution of $1000 to each of the candidates it supported. (Koch also gave $1000 to each of these senators in the primary election, but primary election dollars are not otherwise included in this report.)
Taking Koch Industries out of the equation, 23 smaller FFI companies contributed to Senators in the 2012 general election. Most were oil companies. The candidate who received the most in dollars from FFI corporate contributors, 28th district’s Mike Petersen, also received contributions from the largest number of FFI corporations, namely ten. Unsurprisingly, Peterson received an abysmal overall 11% rating from the Kansas Sierra Club on environment-related votes for the sessions between 2013 and 2016.
Note that this data omits the contributions of Political Action Committees associated with FFI, such as Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (PMCA) of Kansas. It omits, other polluting industries such as large cattle feed operations (or other factory farms the rely on petroleum heavy chemicals). Finally, it omits organizations and businesses that may get direct financial support from Koch Industries, such as the Kansas Chamber of commerce. All of which we will have data on later this year.
The role of Charles and David Koch and their network of collaborators has received considerable scholarly and reportorial attention at the national level, including its network of influence across the country, its lobbying, its incubation of a movement consisting of hundreds of corporate interest groups and organizations. But very little research has been done on their impact on state elections and policy. KPI is working to fill that gap for the state of Kansas. Koch Industries is headquartered in Wichita, also the native city of the Koch brothers. This makes Kansas the epicenter of the Koch phenomenon.
1. “Gut and Go” is Kansas statehouse jargon for an anti-democratic procedure which can avoid committee hearings and/or prevent amendments from the floor in the other house. The trick is to take a bill that has already passed the other house, keep the bill number but completely replace the contents with an unrelated bill the leadership wants to pass.
2. Fossil Fuel Interests (FFI), for the purposes of this preliminary research and article, is defined narrowly as businesses directly involved in the generation of chemicals that are known greenhouse gas emmitors, such as coal and gas. We included electric companies that generate most of their electricity from coal or gas. We did not include transmission-only utility companies.
For more information about the reported data from this study, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.