Political action committees tied to industries opposed to strong clean-air legislation gave $28,312,111 to Senate and House candidates between January 1981 and April of this year, two advocacy groups said Saturday.
Of that total, more than $6.4 million was contributed by the Big Three automakers and the National Automobile Dealers Association, said a report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Public Citizen, both consumer and environmental advocacy organizations."Industries are betting that Congress is more interested in the flood of PAC contributions flowing through their doors than in the tide of public concern over environmental damage and public health," said Zoe Schneider, environmental lobbyist for U.S. PIRG.
Both the Senate and House have passed new and stiffer versions of the Clean Air Act, but with just two weeks remaining in the 101st Congress, the two chambers remain at odds over key provisions on auto emission standards, air toxins, alternative fuels and other issues.
The study showed that PACs connected to industries opposed to the legislation gave an average of $92,025 to senators who took what the consumer groups deemed an anti-environmental position on each of five key amendments, while contributions averaged $33,412 to 18 senators who voted the opposite way.
Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said, "The strong correlation between voting records and PAC contributions gives us a clear picture of how industries dirty the air."
But the groups' own figures indicated several exceptions to that purported correlation. California Republican Sen. Pete Wilson, for example, was fourth on the "anti-environment" money list, with $190,886, but he took the "pro-environment" position on all five amendments.
Texas Republican Sen. Phil Gramm was the top recipient of contributions from the 162 PACs cited by the two consumer groups. He got $261,090 in the 1981-90 period and took the "anti-environment" position on four of the five votes.
A fellow conservative Texan, Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, was second on the money list, with $254,502, but took a "pro-environment" stand on two of the five amendments.
Sen. Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., was "pro-environment" three times out of the five while gathering $149,350 from the industry groups, ranking seventh.