After writing a couple of pieces this week about large energy projects that seem to fly in the face of common sense — the Alberta Tar Sands and the Sunrise Powerlink, I've been doing a whole lot of thinking about the connection between dirty energy and dirty money. At the end of the day, the guy who writes the biggest check to the politicians usually wins. And sadly, large energy companies seem to have a lot more cash to fling around than us lowly taxpayers.
But we could make a difference if only we had access to specific information about which politicians are being given exactly how much money and by whom. Thankfully, one of my readers turned me onto a nifty little online tool that does just that. It's called 'Find the Oil Money.'
Advocating for the "separation of Oil and State," the nonprofit organization Oil Change International uses the power of the Internet to not only report exactly which elected officials received campaign contributions from which oil companies, but exactly how much. A cool relationship graph is generated that sizes the images of the recipients and donors based on how much money they receive or give — not surprisingly, Joe Barton & John Cornyn, both from Texas, received the largest contributions from Koch & Exxon.
You can look up officials by name or, in case you don't know who your representatives are, you can look them up by ZIP code. I was quite surprised to learn that liberal-leaning Diane Feinstein of California received almost $100,000 from oil companies in the past 10 years. (However, in her last term, she only received $2,000).
The website also provides a link to a letter which you can send directly to your elected official telling them how disgruntled you are about their acceptance of dirty money, or perhaps rewarding them with a thank you for keeping oil out of politics.
The data is collected by the Center for Responsive Politics quarterly from published sources required by the Federal Election Committee. And coming soon ... tar sands money and coal money. That should be very interesting.