Ken Cuccinelli’s Conflict of Interest Problem: The CONSOL Energy Campaign Contributions Timeline

The unfolding controversy around Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s involvement with CONSOL Energy Inc., a Pittsburgh-based fossil fuel (oil, gas and coal) company, has focused on the widely criticized assistance his office provided the company. It also has focused on the total amount of money Cuccinelli has received from CONSOL.

When forced to respond to C&BP recently, Cuccinelli has asserted the company “gave me $100,000 after I opposed them.” A comparison of the timing of contributions and actions that favored CONSOL paint a very different picture.

Ken Cuccinelli and Consol Energy Campaign Contributions

In the first eight years of Mr. Cuccinelli’s political career (state senate), his campaigns received a total of $3,500 from CONSOL. However, once elected to Attorney General, his office began taking actions that favored CONSOL and disadvantaged southwestern Virginia landowners who hadn’t been paid by CONSOL. A comparison of the timelines of actions and money show a pattern of accelerating support as favorable actions increased, bringing a total of $140,000 to Cuccinelli after the actions favorable to CONSOL began.

In June 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli issued an advisory opinion that limited the jurisdiction of the Virginia Gas and Oil Board that forced Virginia landowners to go to court over royalty payments, a move clearly in CONSOL Energy’s favor.

Two months later, in August 2010, his office sided with CONSOL and against Virginians in a lawsuit to recover improperly withheld royalties, helping the out-of-state oil company defend against a claim by Virginia landowners.

From August 2010 through April 2012, Cuccinelli’s office (through a Senior Assistant Attorney General Sharon Pigeon) began secretly providing legal research and advice to CONSOL’s attorneys regarding the lawsuit, outside of the scope of the AG office’s official capacity. The Virginia Inspector General is now investigating to determine whether the AG’s office misused taxpayer funds.

Finally, Mr. Cuccinelli, helped CONSOL again earlier this year when he issued another advisory opinion that barred local jurisdictions from using zoning laws to establish fracking moratoriums.

Group calls on Rep. Tipton to return contributions from SG Interests

Public Campaign, a non-profit, non-partisan organization aimed at reducing the role of big special interest money in American politics, called on Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) “to return thousands of dollars in contributions he received from the executives of SG Interests.” According to the Denver Post, the company has been ordered to pay $275,000 following a federal antitrust lawsuit that alleged [Gunnison Energy Corp. and SG Interests] worked together in bidding on public land leases in Gunnison County.”

In a release, Public Campaign went on to say:

“The people of Colorado need to know that their elected officials are working for them and not big donors trying to defraud taxpayers,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director at Public Campaign. “Scott Tipton should immediately return contributions from the company or donate them to charity.”

The agreement to pay the fine, according to a report by the Denver Post, is part of the first federal challenge to an anti-competitive bidding agreement for mineral rights after SG Interests and Gunnison Energy entered into an agreement that only SG would bid at gas field auctions but would split the acreage with Gunnison.

Tipton has close ties to SG Interests and has faced criticism for taking contributions from company donors while simultaneously working to address a local dispute between landowners and the company. He received $8,100 from donors at SG Interests based in Houston in 2011 and has taken $15,300 from company donors since 2009, according to Public Campaign analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

The company wants to increase drilling operations on public lands in Tipton’s district and the congressman has been “trying to mediate ” a solution between both SG Interests and the ranchers, local elected officials and citizens opposed to expanded drilling in the area.

Steve Pearce working hard for oil and gas companies

On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) proved again that he’s one of the hardest working politicians on Capitol Hill when it comes to the oil & gas agenda. Rep. Pearce incorrectly claimed that wilderness protection is preventing the state from making money. Unfortunately for the congressman, New Mexico media reported just yesterday that the state is collecting record revenues from the oil and gas industry.

Rep. Pearce’s latest interesting interpretation of facts came during a House Natural Resources Committee meeting. The committee was debating GOP Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) new legislation attacking wilderness study area designations. Republicans argue that protections for air, water and land block energy development and impede upon Big Oil profits.

Not surprisingly, Rep. Steve Pearce argued in favor of the legislation. He said New Mexicans couldn’t make money because of a lack of oil and gas production in protected areas.

Incidentally, Pearce has taken $1,280,901 in oil and gas campaign contributions over his career. Oil and gas companies have also invested $181,600 in McCarthy.

The Durango Herald reported that New Mexico’s government pulled in $17.2 million from drilling lease revenues in June, and $19.5 million in the first week of July.

Just as Big Oil is about to announce their second quarter profits, the oil-and-gas-funded politicians continue to try to secure more and more government handouts for this billion-dollar industry.

Rep. Pearce, how much will be enough for your oil and gas sponsors?

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