Following the Money
In the coming months (or even weeks) Allegheny County Council will be voting on County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s proposal to lease Deer Lakes Park for fracking. With the council set to make such a huge decision about fracking on public lands, if makes sense to start to take a look at County Council members’ relationships with drilling companies, rich donors and other regional power holders.
Campaign contributions for candidates for county council are, by law, public records and they’re available to the public. Here in Allegheny County, the county clerk makes the raw reports available, but they’re kept out of any useful or searchable database.
To help examine and explore the money behind our County Councilors, the Shadbush Collective has built a searchable, sortable database of campaign contributions to members of County Council over the past 5 years.
Increase in Big Money
There was a dramatic increase in large donations–both direct and in-kind–in the 2013 election cycle. Virtually all of these big donations came from organizations with direct interest in expanding fracking in Allegheny County–The State Party, Building Trades Unions, and a handful of wealthy individuals–and all of that money went to pro-drilling candidates. If proposals to frack the park go through, then these big funders will certainly have gotten what they paid for.
The State Republican Party funneled more than $20,000 into the campaigns for Baker, Means and Kress, with the lion’s share, around $13,700 going to Baker. In the previous four years the state party stayed almost completely out of county council politics. The state party clearly sees these races as increasing in strategic importance.
Our own lunatic publisher, Richard Mellon Scaife is taking an increasingly active role in County Council politics. He donated $10,000 to each Kress and Baker.
Also, for the first time in recent history an energy company, made a campaign contribution to a County Council. Alpha Natural Resources made a $1,000 donation to Tom Baker’s campaign.
The data below is provided on an ‘as-is’ basis and we take no responsibility for inaccuracies related to illegible campaign finance reports, candidate committee errors, or typographical errors. Original copies of the campaign finance reports can be found at http://documents.alleghenycounty.us/elections/DatasourceTemplate.aspx.
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Access the searchable, sortable google spreadsheet.