The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

August 2, 2013

Fracking lobby helps fund GOP campaigns

Oil and gas interests that successfully fought a fracking-tax increase pushed by Gov. John Kasich poured money into Republican legislative campaign coffers during the budget debate this year.

Calling Ohio’s current drilling tax woefully low, Kasich last year tried and failed to persuade GOP lawmakers to increase the severance tax on the emerging shale-drilling industry. He reintroduced the proposal in February as part of the new two-year budget, only to have majority Republicans swat it away again.

Asked in June about the chances of getting the tax passed in the future, Kasich said, “I think we wait for (House Speaker William G.) Batchelder to retire.”

Shale drilling known as fracking has exploded in Ohio, and as lawmakers consider how to regulate and tax the industry, Statehouse lobbying and the campaign donations that go with it also has ramped up considerably.

In the last two-year election cycle, oil and gas interests pumped about $830,000 into Republican legislative campaigns, including $131,000 from fracking giant Chesapeake Energy, $111,000 from NiSourceand $255,000 from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Dispatch analysis shows.

Through the first half of 2013, the industry has given more than $242,000 to state lawmakers and candidates. Batchelder was the top recipient, pulling in about $25,500; followed by Rep. Ron Amstutz of Wooster, the House Finance Committee chairman ($23,200); and Senate President Keith Faber of Celina ($20,500).

GOP legislative leaders never expressed much interest in the drilling-tax increase, which Kasich argued would put Ohio more on par with other states. Some, including Amstutz, questioned the administration’s numbers and argued that lawmakers shouldn’t do anything to impact a booming industry in its infancy.

“Political donations have never driven policy decisions in the Senate,” said John McClelland, spokesman for Faber. “It never happened before, and it’s not going to happen now.”

A House GOP spokesman made a similar assurance.

Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council called the lobbying by the oil and gas industry a “ near-bulletproof operation.”

“Governors and lawmakers of all stripes have taken their best shot, including our current governor,” he said. “It seems like the law only changes when this industry allows the law to be changed.”

With large majorities secured by gerrymandered districts, legislative Republicans are crushing Democrats in fundraising. The House Republican caucus reported $2.1 million on hand, compared with $66,000 for the Democrats. In the Senate, Republicans have $2.1 million on hand versus $48,000 for Democrats.

GOP lawmakers picked up a healthy sum from e-school operator William Lager, who gave $180,000 - already approaching the $243,000 he gave for the last entire two-year campaign cycle. The operation and funding of charter schools is always a major budget discussion, and most charter schools benefitted along with public schools when funding was increased.

The budget included a cap on e-school enrollment, including at 1,000 students for new e-schools, and now allows e-schools to provide career technical education.

Batchelder was by far the top legislative fundraiser, bringing in $516,000 in the first six months. His top donors included $12,000 from FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander, $10,000 from American Electric Power, $12,155 from the Wholesale Beer and Wine Association; and $10,000 each from charter-school operators Lager and David Brennan.

Faber raised $245,000 in the first half of 2013. His largest individual contributor was $11,500 from Lager — an amount he also gave to other top GOP leaders — while the Ohio Beer and Wine Association gave him the maximum $12,155.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Troubled childhoods may prompt men to volunteer for military service

    In the era of the all-volunteer U.S. military, men who served are more than twice as likely as those who never did to have been sexually abused as children and to have grown up around domestic violence and substance abuse, a new study has found.

    July 24, 2014

  • As poverty continues to rise, fewer Ohioans are receiving state aid

    The number of Ohioans receiving public assistance continues to drop even while poverty increases, raising questions about how the state helps the poor.

    July 24, 2014

  • ’Saltwater’ from fracking spill much different from ocean water

    In early July, a million gallons of salty drilling waste spilled from a pipeline onto a steep hillside in western North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation. The waste — a byproduct of oil and gas production — has now reached a tributary of Lake Sakakawea, which provides drinking water to the reservation.

    July 24, 2014

  • 40 bodies from jet solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 23, 2014

  • U.S. pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages

    The United States announced signs of progress in cease-fire talks Wednesday, but prospects for a quick end to the fighting were dim as Palestinian families fled fierce battles in southern Gaza and the death toll rose to more than 700 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

    July 23, 2014

  • GROUNDED U.S., other countries ban flights to and from Israel

    A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on all flights from the U.S. and many from Europe and Canada as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over Ukraine.

    July 23, 2014

  • REPORT: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

    A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, California. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

    July 22, 2014

  • Veteran's Ducks Iraq vet cited for owning 14 therapeutic pet ducks

    An Army veteran who hurt his back during the Iraq War is worried a citation will result in him losing his 14 pet ducks, which he says are therapeutic.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stacked Apartment.jpg New York building shows how mod design stacks up as cool

    In a city piled high with ambitious architecture, a seven-floor structure off the beaten path boasts a distinction of its own: It’s billed as the first multistory, modular-built apartment building to open in the nation’s apartment capital.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scores dead in first major ground battle in Gaza

    The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price Sunday: It killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhood, reportedly used to launch rockets at Israel and now devastated by the fighting.

    July 21, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video