Andrew Wheeler (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republicans charge top dollar for dirty air

GOP candidates’ windfall: Coal industry pays up for EPA rollbacks of regulations


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Jillian S. Ambroz
September 12, 2018 10:30AM (UTC)
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It’s not a surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to roll back regulations on coal emissions in its effort to outright kill President Barack Obama’s Clean Air Plan – that’s been happening for a long time under Trump. It’s also a guaranteed byproduct of putting a former coal lobbyist at the helm of the EPA, just as Trump did when he replaced Scott Pruitt with Andrew Wheeler in early July.

The Trump Administration says it wants to give states more autonomy and looser guidelines for handling greenhouse gas emissions, no matter the health consequences. That’s because what Trump really wants to do is hand wealthy energy companies an easier way to make more money and in turn give more money to the GOP.

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Let’s see how the coal industry has been doling out dollars to Republican candidates (and a few Democrats) this election cycle:

For the 2018 mid-term election cycle to date, 130 members of the 115th Congress have received a total of $879,482, from individuals and PACs of coal companies. That compares to 142 candidates for the 115th Congress receiving a total of just over $1.5 million in donations in the 2016 election cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Just 18 Democrats were on this list for receiving donations totaling $65,990 — and five of those Democrats received donations of $500 or less. That means 113 Republicans pulled in $813,492 from the coal companies.

Topping the list of candidates is Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who has received a total of $41,790. Rounding out the top five Republicans are Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., with $41,500; Rep. Kevin McCarthy, also with $41,500; Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.V., with $38,100; and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., with a total of $29,000.

The top Democrat on the list is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., ranked 10th here, with $20,000 in donations. For some reason, the list also includes Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., though it shows she has never received a single dollar in her 10-year political career from any coal company employees or PACs — the only candidate on the list with that distinction.

The politician with the opposite distinction — having received the most money from the coal industry spanning his career – is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has pulled in $916,599 since 1989, which is how far the data goes back in the report. McConnell has served as a U.S. Senator since 1985.

As for the donors, this year’s top investor is Alliance Resource Partners, which has spent a total of $222,900 on candidates; $60,950 from its employees, and $161,950 through PAC contributions. Arch Coal comes in second with a total of $104,600 spent to date, with only $100 from individual contributions and the rest through PAC donations. Peabody Energy is the third-highest donor, having spent $80,200 so far this cycle, with $2,700 from individual donors and the rest through PAC donations. Murray Energy is in fourth place with $66,340 spent, with $27,840 coming from individual contributions and $38,500 through PAC donations. And rounding out the top five is Boich Companies, with $57,200 spent this cycle, all from individual contributions.

In terms of lobbying, the coal companies have spent just over $3.9 million through the first two quarters of this year, according to the data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That compares to almost $2.5 million in the first six months of the 2016 election cycle. But in 2014, coal companies spent just shy of $5.5 million on lobbying in the first two quarters of that election year. In the last 10 years, the biggest money spent on lobbying — election year or not — was in 2008, when the coal industry spent $12.6 million in the first six months of the year and a total of $26.7 million for the full year trying to press their agenda on Capitol Hill.

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Primary preview — Arizona and Florida

Arizona and Florida hold primaries on Tuesday. Here’s what to watch for in each state.

Arizona — Sadly, the state will be looking to fill two Senate seats this year, with the passing of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Aug. 25. But Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will likely appoint McCain’s successor, who will serve until the 2020 elections because McCain died after the deadline to file for the November election. The other seat Arizona is looking to fill is that of retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in November. In the race to fill Flake’s seat, there are two Democrats looking to take the spot, with the frontrunner and top fundraiser of all the candidates, Kyrsten Sinema, who has raised more than $10.5 million. Three Republicans are running, including U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who has raised $7.6 million, Kelli Ward, who has raised just shy of $3 million and controversial candidate, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned last year after being found guilty of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order to stop racial profiling. Arpaio, who holds extreme views on illegal immigration, has raised the least of the Republicans with $1.3 million.

The Congressional race worth watching is in the 2nd District which is being vacated by Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. This district sits right on the Mexican border and voted for Hillary Clinton by 5 percentage points in 2016, so Democrats see this as a real chance to gain a seat here. The frontrunner is former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., who used to represent the 1stCongressional District until she ran an unsuccessful bid against the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. She has raised close to $2 million. Next in line among the seven Democratic candidates is former state Rep. Matt Heinz, who has raised almost $890,000. There are four Republican candidates vying for this open seat with Lea Marquez Peterson leading the pack with $773,809 raised. There is also a third-party candidate, Josh Reilly.

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Florida — Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., while facing no real challenges from his own party, is already in a tough battle against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Nelson has raised $19.7 million, which would be considered impressive in a normal election. But Scott has raised $31.1 million, though more than $20 million of that total was invested by Scott himself. Heading into the home stretch, Nelson has more than $14 million on hand, compared to just over $3.3 million for Scott. Additional candidates in the race include Rep. Rocky De La Fuente and four Independent candidates.

The 6th Congressional District has an open seat with Incumbent Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis running for Governor. Three Democratic candidates are vying for the seat, including Nancy Soderberg, who has raised the most of both parties, with $1.7 million. She’s facing Stephen Sevigny and John Upchurch on Tuesday. The Republican contenders include John Ward, Michael Waltz and Fred Costello. Both Ward and Waltz have raised more than $1 million.

There are two more open Congressional seats in Florida. In the 15th District, the retirement of Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., has brought out three Democratic candidates, five Republicans, an Independent and a third-party candidate. The Democratic candidates include Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned, who both have raised around $300,000, and Ray Pena. The Republican candidates include frontrunner Ross Spano, Neil Combee, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer and Ed Shoemaker. Jeffrey G. Rabinowitz is running as an Independent and Dave Johnson is running as a third-party candidate.

Another retirement is leaving another District open, this time in the Miami-based 27th District. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the most senior woman in the House and longest-serving Florida Congressional member is retiring after 29 years. The list of candidates hoping to fill her seat is long, with five Democrats, nine Republicans and one Independent. Two Democrats have raised north of $2 million; state Rep. David Richardson and Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton. Democratic candidate Matt Haggman has raised $1.3 million. Leading the pack of Republicans is Maria Elvira Salazar, Bruno Barreiro and Stephen Marks.

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