Activists gathered and rallied in Pittsburgh outside of EQT Corporation’s April 17 shareholder meeting to call on the multinational gas giant to keep its corporate money out of the people’s elections.
EQT has poured nearly $328,000 into Pennsylvania elections since 2001 and $281,000 into statewide races across the country since 2003. On the whole, the fracking industry has spent $23 million to influence Pennsylvania politics since 2003.
What do EQT and the rest of the industry reap from this political spending?
On the national level, the industry’s influence has resulted in fracking– the process of injecting millions of gallons of toxin-laced water deep underground in order to break up shale rocks and extract “natural” gas – being exempt from major environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
In Pennsylvania, 47 percent of state forestlands have been leased to shale drillers and 80 percent of state park mineral rites have been privatized.
The influence is also obvious when you look at EQT’s tax receipts. EQT’s effective federal tax rate over the past five years was -1 percent – meaning that, instead of paying, the corporation actually received $2 million back from the IRS. In Pennsylvania – where EQT is headquartered – the corporation’s five-year effective tax rate was only 0.1 percent.
At the rally, I delivered the petition signed by more than 20,000 Public Citizen activists calling on EQT to stop polluting our elections with its corporate money.
Among the groups rallying outside the meeting were Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG, Common Cause PA, PennEnvironment, Keystone Progress, One Pittsburgh and Clean Water Action. Others supporting the action include Food and Water Watch, Coffee Party and a network of advocates and investors united behind the banner of the Corporate Reform Coalition.
“Corporate spending injects a corrosive agent into our democracy,” said PIRG’s Blair Bowie in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “(It) drowns out the voice of ordinary citizens.”
Before EQT’s shareholders was a resolution, proposed by Clean Yield Asset Management, calling on EQT to study the feasibility of instituting a ban on political spending.
EQT’s shareholders did not adopt the resolution, but the demonstration outside the meeting – as well as activists’ departing chant of “We’ll be back! We’ll be back!” – sent the corporation a strong message that the public will not tolerate the industry’s systemic corruption and co-optation of our government, at any level, from local to state to national.
And, as this shareholder season moves on, Public Citizen and the rest of the Corporate Reform Coalition will keep holding corporations accountable and fighting to get corporate money out of our elections.
Rick Claypool is online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.