Report: Reclaiming Our Democracy

Dirty Dollars, Dirty Air

The Auto And Oil Industries' Continuing Campaign Against Air Pollution Control
Released by: U.S. PIRG

This report documents the influence of the auto and oil industry on public policy and debates surrounding the control of pollution that causes smog, soot and global warming. It tracks the amount of campaign contributions made by the 164 largest companies in the automobile and oil industries and how those contributions influenced members of Congress on clean air issues. It also analyzes other tactics used by these industries to influence pollution policy, such as funding think tank activities, creating fake grassroots groups, lobbying, forming trade associations and greenwashing through the media. Some of the key findings are:

  • The auto and oil industries gave a staggering $56 million in Congressional campaign contributions from the 1992 election through April 1999. The Top 5 contributors based on total contributions are the National Auto Dealers Association, ARCO, Chevron, Lockheed Martin, and Americans for Free International Trade. 
  • The auto and oil industries gave over $33 million in hard money contributions during the same time period. The top 5 hard money contributors were the National Auto Dealers Association, Americans for Free International Trade, Lockheed Martin, Exxon, and the Ford Motor Co. 
  • The auto and oil industries gave nearly $23 million in soft money contributions during the same time period. The top 5 soft money contributors were ARCO, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Koch Industries, and the Bechtel Group. 
  • Of the $33 million in hard money contributions given to members of Congress from 1992-April 1999, the top 5 House recipients were Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), Don Young (R-AK), Tom DeLay (R-TX), Joe Barton (R-TX), and Bud Shuster (R-PA).
  • The top 5 senators were Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Don Nickles (R-OK), Christopher Bond (R-MO), John Breaux (D-LA), and Phil Gramm (R-TX). 
  • Last year alone (1998), the auto and oil industries spent more than $90.9 million on lobby expenditures. The top 5 companies spending the most on lobbying were the Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Mobil, Exxon, and ARCO.
  • Those members of Congress who supported the 1997 Klink (D-PA)-Upton (R-MI) "dirty air" bill, to overturn EPA's soot and smog standards, received 76% more campaign contributions ($71,437) on average than those Representatives who did not support the bill ($40,522). 
  • Those Senators who oppose stronger CAFE fuel efficiency standards ($159,813) received more than three times more campaign contributions on average from the auto and oil industries than those senators who support tougher standards. ($47,309).

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