The last session of the Colorado legislature saw the passage of many historic bills on a variety of topics from civil unions to election administration and much more. It was striking, however, to see that the history-making changes did not extend to regulation of Colorado's oil and gas industry. How did oil and gas get into a position where it was able to resist even 2013's tide of change?
That's the question Colorado Ethics Watch set out to answer in our new report, Spend Baby Spend. What we learned was striking:
• Oil and gas companies and associations spent approximately $4.7 million on lobbying Colorado elected officials during fiscal years 2008-09 through 2011-12. This spending greatly exceeded lobbying spending by higher education (approx. $4 million), the telecommunications industry (approx. $3.8 million), other mining businesses (approx. $1.9 million) and agriculture (approx. $900,000) during the same four-year period.
• These same oil and gas companies and associations have so far in fiscal year 2012-13 spent approximately $1.06 million dollars lobbying through April 30, 2013.
• Oil and gas companies and their employees contributed more than $800,000 to political action committees, 527 political organizations and other groups to influence statewide candidate elections during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, benefiting both Republican and Democratic candidates. This figure does not include any unreported "dark money" spending.
It's all legal, of course. But citizens who are concerned about the effects of oil and gas development in the state should be concerned when business can invest a portion of their profits into ensuring that their voice is never lost in discussions about the industry.