The Scranton Times is reporting this morning that GOP governor candidate Tom Corbett leads all candidates in money received from oil and gas interests. That comes to $372,000. Those same interests have contributed $117,000 to the campaign of Corbett's running mate, Joseph Scarnati. That's a total of $489,000 to the GOP ticket. I would provide a link to the story, but I just can't find it at the moment.
Now I could go on about the ethics of campaign contributions*, but the central question is this: just what are these interests expecting in return for this investment?
We don't have to play naive here: they are expecting that a Corbett Administration will take it easy on them in the areas of...
...taxes (as in less on them, which means more on you)
...environmental protection (they want us to trust them)
...property rights (Don't want drilling under your property? Too bad!)
...and I have absolutely no doubt they will get these things, in whole or in substantial part, if Tom Corbett is elected.
Look, my intent here isn't to rail against Tom Corbett. If you think the oil and gas interests are doing a net service to the Commonwealth, if you think that any harm done to the environment is a fair trade-off in exchange for jobs, if you think that the whole notion of having some say over what happens under your property is over-blown, then this probably doesn't bother you.
It does, however, bother me.
Unlike some, I grew up in the Scranton of the late 60's & 70's. I still remember the stink of the culm bank that sits behind what is now Mr Z's supermarket in South Scranton. I remember when the area that now contains the Lackawanna County Recycling Center looked like a lunar landscape (and in fact it was actually called "the moon" by many a high school drinker). These environmental legacies, and many more, were courtesy of the last "energy boom" that happened in these parts. You have to wonder at the parallels between that period and today.
In the end, the big question is this: Have we really learned anything?
Tom Corbett can take all the money he wants from the oil and gas industry and claim till he is blue in the face that he is not "in their pocket", but common sense dictates the opposite. If any of us made a $372,000 investment, I think it's pretty reasonable that we would expect a decent return.
(*) Side note: if they are, as Rush Limbaugh says, a form of free speech, then does that mean those with more money get more speech that those of us with less money?