An Answer to Ellen’s Question:


Earlier this morning at Sunspots Ellen asked whether the Republicans who voted to take back tax incentives from oil and gas companies received less money from the oil and gas interests than those voting yes. As she noted the average intake of oil and gas money by a Republican in the 2006 election cycle is $11,645 versus $4,331 for a Democrat. So, is Ellen’s hunch right? Did these 66 Republicans receive less money on average than their party mates who voted against the tax incentive repeal?

The answer is yes. The average amount received from the oil and gas industry by these Republicans is $5,727, almost exactly half of what an average Republican received. Looking at the members who voted it is obvious why many of them did. The majority of these lawmakers come from eastern, midwest, and northeastern states with high traffic volume and high gas prices. Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan stand out. Both Republican House members from New Hampshire voted for the incentive repeal as did the two Republicans from Maryland and all of the Republicans from Connecticut. Florida led the southern states with the most members voting for the repeal at seven. This most likely reflects anger at the oil and gas industry for trying to open up the waters off of Florida’s coast to new drilling.

There are a couple of lawmakers voting for repeal that are completely unexpected. The one jumps off the page at you is House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA), known as a scourge to environmentalists and the best friend of oil and gas companies. Pombo topped all of the “Yea” Republicans with $66,200, which made him ninth overall (House and Senate) in oil and gas contributions. Why would Pombo backtrack all of a sudden? Perhaps it’s California’s sky high gas prices and the fact that his district is filled with commuters. But politics may be the best explanation. Pombo is facing his first serious challenge in both the Republican primary, from Endangered Species Act author Pete McCloskey, and in the general as Democrats have decided to target the Central Valley congressman. Taking a look at the list of Republicans voting here one can see that a number of them are expected to face grueling campaigns this year. CQ Politics lists 21 of these 66 Republicans as out of the “Safe Republican” category.

I think that the mix of these factors – a tough political climate, a lack of pressure form large campaign contributors, and pressure from constituents – leads these Republicans to buck their leadership and vote against a well known ally.