Report: Anti-frackers outspent nine to one

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ALBANY—A new report released on Monday appears to show that pro-fracking groups have outspent anti-fracking rivals almost nine to one since 2007.

Pro-fracking interests spent $48.9 million on lobbying and $15.4 million on campaign contributions, according to the report from Common Cause, a good government group which receives funding from some anti-fracking causes.

During the same time period, fracking opponents spent $5.4 million on lobbying and $1.9 million on campaign contributions, the report found.

“The persistent and accelerated spending is cause for concern as lawmakers weigh this key decision,” Common Cause executive director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “Yet despite being outspent by nearly 9 to 1, organized people have managed to overcome the advantage of organized money to make their voices heard.”

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The anti-fracking movement has, so far, successfully pressured Gov. Andrew Cuomo to delay lifting a five-year moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing here, a decision that has been postponed indefinitely.

Officials from the energy industry dispute the David-versus-Goliath narrative suggested by the report.

The anti-fracking movement has been accused of failing to properly report its lobbying efforts, and one group, Artists Against Fracking, has been referred to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for failing to register as lobbyists.

The report also does not appear to include the extent of the spending of the Park Foundation, a deep-pocketed philanthropic fund that has spent millions on the fight against fracking in New York. The Park Foundation has also contributed to Common Cause, though the group says the foundation had no influence on the report.

The oil and gas companies promoting fracking in New York are mostly public corporations accountable to shareholders and do not conceal their spending on lobbying, said Karen Moreau, a spokeswoman for the New York Petroleum Council. She said reports like that put out by Common Cause mask the extent of the finances going to fight fracking in New York.

“They want to present themselves as being a truly grassroots effort, as if they represent the masses,” she said. “In fact, it's a very sophisticated effort.”

The state legislature received virtually all of the money spent by pro-fracking concerns on campaign spending, and most of it went to the majority parties in each chamber.

The spending in the state legislature spreads to both sides of the aisle, with Senate Republicans receiving $3.1 million to the Senate Democrats $795,000. The State Assembly Democrats received $1.3 million compared to the Assembly Republicans who got $643,000. The Independent Democrat Caucus received $194,000.

The pro-fracking groups also gave generous to the three Democrats elected statewide: Gov. Andrew Cuomo received almost $1 million in pro-fracking campaign contributions, followed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at $142,100 and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who received $84,550.