Natural Gas and Money, a "Bacteria that Ills the American System"

Money, plain and simple, is what blogger Glenn Greenwald called "the bacteria that ills the American political system" in a talk given at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on November 3, 2010. Indeed, when looking at issues individually, one can see that this is obviously the case, whether it be health care, Wall Street, war, or on national security issues. It's all the same and he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Should anyone be surprised, then, that every statewide race in Pennsylvania, a state in which there are no limits on campaign contributions, was ruthlessly barraged by campaign money from oil companies? If you're surprised, you clearly haven't had your eyes open during other election cycles.

Marcellus Money

Originally making waves with its "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets" report, Common Cause of Pennsylvania has stepped up to the plate once again and created an indispensable database called, appropriately enough, "Marcellus Money," which tracked campaign contributions from natural gas drilling companies in the run-up to the 2010 elections. The final calculations shed some predictable light on the issue of money's plaguing influence on elections:

* $835,720: Total amount of money oil drilling companies gave to Republican Governor-elect Tom Corbett.

* $112,800: Total amount of money given to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato by oil drilling companies.

* $2,262,095.61: Dollar amount given to Republican candidates during the election cycle by oil drilling companies during the election cycle.

-$500,005.00: Dollar amount given to Democratic candidates during the election cycle by oil drilling companies during the election cycle.

* $1,029,210: Total amount of money given by the SW Jack Drilling Company during the election cycle.

* $250,000: Amount of money given by Christine Toretti, the CEO of SW Jack Drilling Company, during the election cycle. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, that included "That included covering about $15,000 in air fare and hotels for Corbett's campaign."

* Inquirer: "That included a $100,000 check from Lance Shaner, the newly appointed chief executive officer of Rex Energy, which has permits for 57 wells and more pending. Also on the list was $15,000 from Michael Radler, an executive at Chief Oil & Gas, which has nearly 200 permits and which had already given Corbett's campaign $53,000."

The numbers speak for themselves. The movement for environmental justice is up against some powerful factions with big bucks behind their cause.

In an October 3 article titled "America's Deepening Moral Crisis," Professor Jeffrey Sachs, economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University correctly portended, "America’s political and economic crisis is set to worsen following the upcoming November elections. President Barack Obama will lose any hope (assuming he had any in the first place) for passing progressive legislation aimed at helping ... the environment. Indeed, all major legislation and reforms are likely to be stalemated until 2013, following a new presidential election. An already bad situation marked by deadlock and vitriol is likely to worsen, and the world should not expect much leadership from a bitterly divided United States. Much of America is in a nasty mood, and the language of compassion has more or less been abandoned."

Things aren't looking good on the most important issue of them all: environmental justice, or, in more stark terms, the future of the world as we know it.