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The Not-So-Hidden Fracking Money Fueling the 2016 Elections

"We’ve long known that the oil and gas industry was buying politicians," writes Turnbull. "This latest expose from the New York Times confirms it once again, and this time it is frackers in the lead."

The New York Times this week pulled together a list of all the individuals who have contributed over 1 million dollars in the 2016 election…and there’s some major fracking money hiding in plain sight.

If you take a quick glance at the Times’ list of big contributors, you’ll see a hodgepodge of hedge fund managers, CEOs of major companies, and, of course oil industry executives. But, if you dig a little deeper, one family quickly emerges as a major player in the 2016 race: The Wilks family.

So often, when we think of major Big Oil contributors we think of the Koch Brothers. Make no mistake, the Kochs are still major players funneling massive amounts of cash to stymie climate action and new regulations against the industry. But a new family — the Wilks family — has entered the fray in a big way.

Who is the Wilks family? Well, simply put, they are fracking billionaires. Farris and Dan Wilks made billions in Texas with their business, Frac Tech International, which provides equipment for fracking operations. Founded in 2002 as the fracking boom was just about to hit, they sold a bulk of their shares in the company in 2011 for over $3 billion.


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If you take a look at numbers 8, 9, 23 and 24 on the New York Times top political contributors list, you’ll see that Farris and his wife Jo Ann along with Dan and his wife Staci have contributed some $15 million in total during this election cycle to candidates and related Super PACs. That makes the Wilks family the largest contributors in this 2016 election thus far.

Oh, and this isn’t the first time the Wilks family has thrown major cash around to sway politicians. In 2014, the city of Denton, Texas organized and became the first town in Texas to pass a ban on fracking in the town’s area. Shortly after, the Wilks family channeled $800,000 to members of the Texas state legislature who would eventually vote to overturn the ban.

We’ve long known that the oil and gas industry was buying politicians. This latest expose from the New York Times confirms it once again, and this time it is frackers in the lead.

We need to separate oil and state if we’re going to have a chance of establishing a robust climate test that keeps fossil fuels in the ground and gets our government to stop funding fossils.

David Turnbull

David Turnbull is campaigns director for Oil Change International. Follw him on Twitter: @david_turnbull

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