Oil has been in the headlines for the past month or more, mainly because of the rapid downward readjustment in price. As well, in case we've forgotten, in mid-November the transportation of oil caught the media's attention as Senate Democrats blocked Bill S.2280 that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The measure, Senate Roll Call 280, fell one vote short of overcoming a filibuster with a vote of 59 in favour and 41 opposing with 60 votes needed to see the bill proceed. This followed a vote in the House which saw the bill approved by a relatively wide margin. As it looks now, voting on Keystone XL is taking on the appearance of a proxy war between the President and the Republican party with the pro-side consisting mainly of Republicans and the anti-side consisting mainly of Democrats.
From Open Congress, here is a summary of who voted for and against the measure:
All Republicans (45) voted for Bill S.2280 along with 14 Democrats and 39 Democrats and 2 Independents voted against the bill.
What has been little covered by the mainstream media is the real reason why the vote in the Senate was split as it was. According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, there is a good reason and that reason is money.
On average, over the course of their careers, the 59 Senators who voted for the pipeline have received significantly more money from the oil and gas industry than those who voted against the construction of Keystone XL. Here is a graphic showing the total amounts received by both the pro- and anti-pipeline Senators:
In total, the 59 Senators who voted for the pipeline received over 33 million in campaign donations from the oil and gas sector, averaging out to $572,000 each. By comparison, the 41 that voted against the bill received a total of $4.2 million from the oil and gas sector, averaging out to only $103,900 each. This means that the pro-pipeline Senators received 5.5 times as much in campaign donations from the oil and gas sector as those Senators that voted against Keystone XL.
In case you were curious, here is a complete listing of total career donations from the oil and gas sector for each Senator:
Here is the same data, sorted in order from largest to smallest career oil and gas sector donations for each Senator, keeping in mind that longer-serving Senators would have had a far longer period of time to accumulate donations:
It is interesting to note that the top 30 recipients of oil and gas money all voted "yea" to Keystone XL and that on average, each Senator has received $940,595.75 in oil sector donations.
As we all know, money is obviously a significant motivator in Washington. The Keystone XL decision was no exception.