Senators Boycott EPA Chief Vote While Raising Money From Energy Lobbyists

Three Senate Republicans who boycotted Thursday's scheduled vote on President Obama's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had fundraisers scheduled on the same day, at least two of which were hosted by energy industry lobbyists, according to invitations obtained by the Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time website.

The nominee, Gina McCarthy, has already answered more than 600 written questions specifically from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and over 1,000 in total, but the eight Republicans on the committee still boycotted today’s scheduled vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, insisting she hasn’t provided them with enough information.

Weakening the EPA and obstructing its authority is a major priority for the polluting industries that fill many senators’ campaign war chests. At least three of the boycotting Republicans—Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)—won’t have to wait to hear the appreciation of their benefactors, since they’re raising money from the special interests impacted by EPA’s decisions on the same day as McCarthy’s vote.

  • Sen. Barrasso was scheduled to attend a breakfast fundraiser this morning for his Common Values PAC at Charlie Palmer Steak House. The three lobbyists listed as hosts for the event work for Williams & Jensen, a firm representing American Chemistry Council and several electric utility companies that could be impacted by the EPA and its rulemaking decisions.
  • Sen. Inhofe has lunch scheduled this afternoon at the the same place as Sen. Barrasso's event, Charlie Palmer's. Four of the lobbyists listed as hosts work for Fierce, Isakowitz, and Blalock. The firm's energy industry clients include BP, Noble Energy, and Edison International.
  • Unfortunately, the invitation for Sen. Crapo's "Young Professionals Reception" for his Freedom Fund PAC on Thursday night at the National Republican Senatorial Committee does not have any hosts listed. Freedom Fund has not filed any fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this year, but in the last election cycle, the PAC received $18,500 from electric utilities, $13,000 from oil and gas interests, and $22,000 from other energy interests.

Boycotting a vote like this is definitely one way to slow down an agency nominee's confirmation. Attending a fundraiser the same day with interests impacted by that nominee's agency gives the public a clue as to who you're representing with that boycott. It’s no wonder the American people think our political system is broken.

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With Public Campaign Action Fund's Kurt Walters