Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Flares burning off gas at Belridge Oil Field and hydraulic fracking site which is the fourth largest oil field in California. (Photo: Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden signed a January 27, 2021 executive order temporarily pausing new oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands and waters. (Photo: Citizens of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Fossil Fuel and Other Polluters Gave Tens of Millions in Campaign Cash to GOP Lawmakers Opposing Biden's Leasing Freeze

"Our elected officials are sold out to Big Oil," said Public Citizen.

Brett Wilkins

Dozens of Republican lawmakers who oppose President Joe Biden's executive order temporarily halting new oil and gas leasing on federal lands have taken tens of millions of dollars in career campaign contributions from fossil fuel, energy, and natural resources industry interests, a report published Wednesday revealed. 

"Oil and gas CEOs and their political allies on Capitol Hill are doing whatever they can to prop up a system that allows them to exploit public lands at low costs and boost their profits."
—Alan Zibel, 
Public Citizen

The Public Citizen report—entitled Big Oil's Capitol Hill Allies (pdf)examines fossil fuel industry and other polluters' campaign contributions to the 29 GOP lawmakers from the 70-member Congressional Western Caucus who issued a January 27 statement denouncing an order signed the previous day by Biden pausing new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and in offshore waters pending further review. 

While climate campaigners and environmental activists praised Biden—and also pushed him to make the moratorium permanent—the January statement's signatories said the president's order would negatively impact the U.S. economy and the nation's energy security. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the directive a "political stunt crafted to pacify the radical left-wing of his party."

Public Citizen's report reveals the Republicans who signed the statement received a combined $13.4 million in career campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests and another $23.6 million from energy and natural resources interests. McCarthy led the list of beneficiaries, receiving over $5.9 million from these polluters during his eight congressional campaigns.

Other GOP signatories to the statement who took more than a million dollars in career campaign contributions from polluting industry interests include Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Garret Graves (R-La.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa.), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). 

Almost immediately after Biden announced the moratorium, the fossil fuel lobby group Western Energy Alliance sued the administration, claiming the president exceeded his authority and violated multiple land-use laws. According to Public Citizen, Western Energy Alliance contributed $380,000 to Republican lawmakers over the past three election cycles.

"Oil and gas CEOs and their political allies on Capitol Hill are doing whatever they can to prop up a system that allows them to exploit public lands at low costs and boost their profits," said Public Citizen researcher Alan Zibel, the report's lead author. "After four years of the Trump administration's nonstop fossil fuel giveaways, we need to take a step back and examine whether taxpayers are getting a fair deal from government oil leasing program." 

Public Citizen president Robert Weissman added that "the Biden administration must ignore the fossil fuel industry's complaints and scaremongering, and support our clean energy future by working to get America off dirty fuels as soon as possible."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·


Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·


US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·


Federal Judge Orders Starbucks to Rehire Fired Union Organizers in Memphis

"It was a ruling in favor of what's right," said one member of the Memphis Seven. "We knew from day one that we were going to win this, it just took time."

Brett Wilkins ·


Activists Arrested While Protesting 'Dirty Pipeline Deal' Outside Schumer's Office

"Sen. Schumer is sacrificing frontline communities and our clean energy future, all to placate a coal baron," said one organizer, referring to the majority leader's side agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo