Petro money in the Kitsap Caucus

Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times wrote a story detailing a disconnect in what oil and gas industry officials say publicly and how they’re responding to Gov. Jay Inslee’s cap-and-trade proposal. Industry officials say they support cap-and-trade, but they’re no fans of Inslee’s proposal or of what’s happening in California. When asked what kind of proposal they would favor, they don’t offer specifics.

Included with the story, however, is a chart that is useful, but illustrates how easy it is to make a false equation in politics. The chart shows that state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, has received more campaign money from oil and gas interests than all but one other legislative politician in the state. State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, comes in at No. 8 for donations she received for her 2013 campaign. Here is a list of the oil and gas industry contributions that went to Kitsap candidates in 2013 and 2014.

The easy accusation is to say that a legislator, once gifts are offered, is paid for. I won’t argue that money has no influence, but its bigger influence is in who gets elected, not in what the politician does once in office. To illustrate that point, let me ask you this question: If the oil and gas industry hadn’t contributed $13,700 to Tim Sheldon’s campaign, do you think he would then favor Inslee’s proposal? I seriously doubt it. If you doubt me, do you think that same amount of money would have influenced Irene Bowling’s vote?

I could give you new evidence about the impact of money and politics, but instead I’ll give one I’ve offered before.

More than years ago This American Life, addressed the issue. Andrea Seabrook asked Democrat Barney Frank if money influenced politics:

Barney Frank: People say, “Oh, it doesn’t have any effect on me.” Look, if that were the case, we would be the only human beings in the history of the world who, on a regular basis, took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and made sure that it had no effect on our behavior. That is not human nature.

Andrea Seabrook: On the other hand, he says, there are things that influence a politician besides money.

Barney Frank: If the voters have a position, the votes will kick money’s rear end any time. I’ve never met a politician — I’ve been in the legislative bodies for 40 years now — who, choosing between a significant opinion in his or her district and a number of campaign contributors, doesn’t go with the district.

And I have had people tell me — and we talk honestly to each other, we don’t lie to each other very often. You don’t survive if you do. As chairman of a committee, I’d be lobbying for votes. I have had members say to me, Mr. Chairman, I love you. Barney, you’re right. But I can’t do that politically because I’ll get killed in my district. No one has ever said to me, I’m sorry, but I got a big contributor I can’t offend.

I’m not defending anyone here. I’m just suggesting that the oil and gas industry ponied up money for Tim Sheldon and Jan Angel because they knew Tim Sheldon and Jan Angel. I don’t think either has ever shown any sign of being a fence sitter on cap and trade.

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