November 13, 2011
CLEVELAND — A government watchdog group has found that oil and gas companies have spent nearly $3 million in the last decade on lobbying and campaign contributions in Ohio — a state that is believed to be on the verge of a natural gas boom in the coming years.
Common Cause released a national report that indicates the oil and gas industry has made $747 million in political expenditures over 10 years. The industry gave about $2.8 million of that to Ohio campaigns and candidates running for state or local office, The Plain Dealer newspaper reported.
Common Cause is a nonprofit formed in 1970 that focuses on money and ethics in government.
Gov. John Kasich benefited the most, with $213,519 in contributions from the industry, followed by his predecessor, former Gov. Ted Strickland with $87,450 and Secretary of State Jon Husted with $84,750.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told the newspaper that drilling in Ohio’s shale formations — where the natural gas is trapped — is expected to create more than 200,000 jobs in the state and generate nearly half a billion in revenue.
“While the governor has warned the industry that they better play by our environmental rules and regulations, we are glad to have the support of an industry that is poised to reinvigorate Ohio’s economy and put a whole bunch of Ohioans back to work,” Nichols said.
One of the report’s authors, James Browning, says those contributions “are like money in the bank.”
“They are using it to build relationships, to have access,” he said.
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association is one of the groups making the contributions. Executive vice president Thomas Stewart said contributing money to politicians is a constitutional right of his organization.
“We give campaign contributions to support those candidates who support good government and who support the development of reliable and plentiful energy supplies in Ohio and America,” he said. “We do not support candidates who do not support those concepts.”
The $2.8 million spent in Ohio only includes political contributions — the state does not require companies or industry groups to report how much they spend on lobbying.
“In Ohio, people cannot see where the lobbying money is being spent,” Browning said.