“We were looking for friends, and we found one in George W. Bush.” So James H. “Buck” Harless told the Wall Street Journal in June 2001. Harless isn’t any ordinary concerned citizen. He is a board member of Massey Energy, a major coal mining company in Appalachia that practices mountaintop removal mining. That’s right, his company, along with other coal mining companies, actually blast the tops of mountains to get to seams of coal. Harless also happens to be a Bush “pioneer,” one of the volunteer fundraisers who promised to raise $100,000 for the 2000 Bush campaign. He and his family alone have given $60,650 to Bush and the Republican National Committee (RNC) since 1999. In May 2002, the Bush Administration rewarded Harless and other mountain-top removal miners by weakening Clean Water Act rules to make it easier to dump the waste from mountain top mining into rivers and streams below, clogging and polluting them.
Harless is just one of the many industry campaign contributors who have benefited from regulatory “paybacks” granted by the Bush Administration, detailed in a new report released by Public Campaign and Earthjustice,
“Paybacks: How the Bush Administration is Giving Away Our Environment to Its Corporate Contributors.” The report shows how the same industries that have been generous contributors to the Bush 2000 campaign and the RNC are benefiting from numerous regulatory rollbacks. More than $44 million has been contributed by the mining, timber, chemical, and other polluting industries since 1999--a serious investment with devastating results for the environment. This political money flowed in every possible form, from corporate Political Action Committees (PACs), executives, and their families, who contributed both “hard” and “soft” money. The total also includes contributions from polluting industries to the Bush-Cheney Inaugural fund and the Bush Florida recount fund.
These industries invested their political cash carefully. One out of three of the dollars these polluting industries have contributed to federal candidates has gone to Bush and the RNC. That’s more than they contributed to all federal Democratic candidates and party committees combined. (Other Republican candidates and party committees received nearly half of the campaign cash.) Now, two years into the president’s term, the campaign cash investment made by the polluting industries is paying off handsomely. The timber industry, which contributed $3.4 million, has gotten an administration committed to promote more logging in the national forests. The chemical and other manufacturing industries contributed $18.6 million, and got assurance that the administration would push to require taxpayers, not polluting industries, to pay for more hazardous waste cleanups.
Unfortunately, the list of policy paybacks is long--and it is likely to get longer. As the 2004 elections draw closer, President Bush will go back to these same industries and ask for more campaign money from executives. The environment is literally up for auction. If you are like the 99.9 percent of the U.S. population who do not give political contributions in $1,000 chunks, then you shouldn’t expect your bid to win.
Be and sure and visit our new website, www.GeorgeWBuy.com, for a satirical look at how environmental policy is up for auction to generous campaign contributors.