- According to Sightline, the Washington state senator who received the most fossil fuel contributions last campaign season is a Democrat.
The Stranger just put out an issue in which we consider the five initiatives Republican state legislators are most likely to block this session. Chief among them: Governor Inslee's cap-and-trade proposal, which calls for a carbon tax (or "fee," or whatever you want to call it) on emissions from the state's top 130 polluters.
We called up a bunch of Republican legislators to ask them what they might do to such a proposal, but the Sightline Institute, an environmental think tank, took another approach. Follow the money! By picking apart Washington Public Disclosure Commission records and using other campaign donation tracking tools, Sightline found that the legislator who received the most fossil fuel industry contributions in the last campaign season is Tim Sheldon, a state senator who's technically a Democrat. Two years ago, however, Sheldon, of Potlatch, joined Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus.
According to Sightline, Sheldon received $19,300 from oil, gas, and coal interests in the last election. He also vice-chairs the Senate Energy, Environment, and Telecommunications Committee, a key group that will review oil train safety and carbon bills. Close behind him is Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, at $19,100. Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), who also sits on the energy committee, came in third with $17,600 in contributions.
Sightline also points out that not all fossil fuel industry contributions can be tracked through public records. Lobbying firms make substantial donations, too, but it's more difficult to connect the legislator to the industry when those firms are in the middle. PACs are another good way of finding out what's what, and it's illuminating that groups like the Leadership Council and Whatcom Republican Party each received more than $50,000 from fossil fuel interests. Read more here.