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Dirty Energy Money

Challenging dirty energy's dominance of our democracy

Dirty Energy Money is an interactive tool that tracks the flow of oil, gas and coal industry contributions to the US Congress.

About this Site

Example of Frederick Boucher's contribution network\

The Dirty Energy Money tool provides an illustration of the network of funding relationships between Dirty Energy companies and politicians.

You can use the interactive network map to explore our database of campaign contribution relationships. Politicians and companies are positioned by their relationships, those that are close together tend to have similar patterns of giving and receiving.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this site do?

The Dirty Energy Money website shows which companies are dumping their dirty money into politics, and which politicians are receiving it. We offer the best data available on contributions from the fossil fuel industry to decisionmakers.

The site is based on a robust database of contributions from employees and Political Action Committees (PACs) going back to 1999. We break information down by congress, politician, company and votes. We only look at the contributions that went to Members of Congress while they were in office. Users can see data presented in tables on the site, and/or download it as a CSV file. We also pull the identification numbers for the original FEC records so that it is possible to click through from the table view and see scanned version FEC filing the data came from.

We've also created relationship maps of contributions from the oil & gas and coal industries to congressional representatives. These handy graphics show the relationship between companies and politicians; the size of the node and the tie indicate the strength of the relationship. (i.e. a company giving $25,000 to a politician will appear bigger than one giving $5000). Think of it like a social networking site in which companies and politicians have become 'friends' by giving money.

How do I search for data?

search example

You can explore our database by politician, company, vote or Congress term. You’ll see all of these categories in the navigation menu. The search box on each page provides quick access to politicians, companies, and the representation for your zip code. You can also find our analysis of recent decisions on the ‘votes’ and the ‘analysis’ pages, as well as on the Oil Change International blog.

How does the relationship map work?

Extracting candidates and companies from FEC filings

We add up all the contributions from each filing and run this data through network visualization software to position the companies and politicians according to their ties. The size of the node (i.e. the circle with the company or politician name) and the strength of the tie (i.e. the line between actors) corresponds to the amount of money given or received. On the Congress pages, the nodes are positioned according to the strength of their relationships.

Where did you get the data?

Anybody who runs for federal office is required to file reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) giving the names and addresses of everyone who donates more than $250 to the campaign. We use FEC data compiled by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, which we further refine using our own custom-built software to match our specific expertise in the oil, gas and coal industries. We track all contributions from known employees and Political Action Committees (or PACs) from these companies back to 1999. We only look at the contributions that went to the selected group of elected officials (House, Senate, etc.) while they were in office.

We used tools, data, and information from the following sources:

Center for Responsive Politics: categorized oil contributions and company names and provided assistance with data interpretation.

GovTrack.us: Representative photos (courtesy of the Government Printing Office) and information about who is in office when.

Sunlight Labs API: additional Representative photos and ZIP code lookup

Images of company logos were acquired from company websites without permission or authorization and may be under copyright of the respective companies. They are used here to refer to the companies and do not in any way indicate an endorsement or sponsorship of this project by any of these firms.

How is this data Different than data available from CRP?

The Center for Responsive Politics' Oil & Gas sector category closely matches our interests. However we have done additional work to both add and remove companies that appear to have slipped through CRP's screening process, and aggregate additional subsidiaries into 'parent' companies. We also include a more robust screening of electric utilities that do not normally land within the CRP's industry categorization.

Other key differences:

With the exception of past presidential candidates, our site focuses on contributions to congress members in office. This means that contributions to some groups (such as industry PACs) and candidates who did not win elections will not appear in the site totals.

We have made an extra review of the company names in the database, removing a few companies that appear to have slipped through CRP's screening process, and aggregating some additional subsidiaries into the 'parent' company.

We don't include money from Congressmember's Presidential campaigns in their totals.

We don't sum in the previous cycles into Senator's terms. (Overall totals should be similar, but non-election year totals will be lower, reflecting the dates when the contributions occurred.)

We provide links to the original filing documents for individual contributions, when available from the FEC.

CRP's database goes back to 1989. Ours goes back to 1999. This causes a discrepancy in 'lifetime' or 'career' numbers.

How recent is this data?

The date of the most recent FEC data release that we are using is shown on the bottom of each page. Most representatives are only required to file quarterly, so in some cases data may be several months old. There will be some additional delay while the FEC and the Center for Responsive Politics process the data. You can view the date of each contribution by looking in the details of the table view.

Also, as CRP notes, just because a data set is downloaded after a filing deadline, it cannot be assumed that the data being downloaded will include all the data from the filing. It takes the FEC some time to run these new records through their auditing processes and to resolve any reporting problems uncovered. Additionally, as the Senate still does not file electronically, it takes some time for the FEC to manually enter that information. How long any of this takes is not always the same from report to report.

Can I look at contributions for different years?

congress list example
Yes. On a profile for an individual company or politician you can click on the list of congresses in the filter bar to go to a different year, total, or on 'pre-term' contributions involving congress members who have not yet taken office. On the Congress and Presidential views, use the the drop-down menu on the left side of the filter bar.

How can I slice and dice the data to get what I'm looking for?

Politicians: Once you’re on the specific page for a Member of Congress, you can switch between different tabs to check out their connections with companies (which you can filter by year) (on the Connections tab), their relationship with certain sectors and types of givers (on the Comparisons tab), and how they voted on specific decisions (on the Votes tab).

Companies: Once you’re on a company page, you can check out their giving to Members of Congress (on the Connections tab), and their giving according to party and term (on the Comparisons tab).

Congress: You can manipulate the relationship maps in the 'Congress view by using the filter at the top of the window. The filter allows you to select which congress, chamber, industry, politician, companies and contributions you want to view. Adjusting these settings to lower values will include more of the corresponding elements in the relationship and table views. For example, setting the 'CONTRIBUTIONS' slider to 'Top 75%' means that all the contributions except the smallest values will be included in the views. (The actual dollar values used for filtering are displayed under the title for the map)

congress selector exampleThe CONGRESS option selections which two-year batch politicians and contributions to show.

CHAMBER, not surprisingly, selects which politicians will appear based on the chamber of the U.S. Congress they serve in.

filter bar example

The INDUSTRY option can be set so that the maps will show only contributions from Oil & Gas, Coal, or All (both together).

The POLITICIANS slider filters out politicians based on total amount of money that they accepted from the selected industries in the given time period. By decreasing the minimum total, more representatives will appear in the relationship map or table.

The COMPANIES slider filters out companies based on the total amount of money that each company gave to congress people in the given time period. If a company gave less than the stated minimum, they will not appear on the relationship map or table. By decreasing the minimum total, more companies will appear.

The CONTRIBUTIONS slider refers to each individual contribution received by a representative, By decreasing the minimum contribution amount, you will expand the number of listed contributions, showing more links on the network.

Is money raised while running for office included?

Yes. We show the contributions Members of Congress received during each term they were in office. We added the category 'pre-term contributions' to ensure that money they received during their initial campaign is available as well. Both sets of data are included in the total contributions to that decisionmaker.

How do you define 'coal money'?

The term 'coal money' refers to contributions from either coal mining, trading or coal burning companies (i.e., electric utilities that operate coal-fired power plants), as well as trade associations and political action committees representing those industries. Because electric utilities can use a variety of fuels or renewable resources to generate electricity, it was necessary to determine which companies rely predominantly on coal in order to include them in the 'coal money' database.

Are utilities included in coal money?

In order to determine how much electricity a utility produced using which fuel source we used data from the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) for 2011, found here. We used data from EIA 923 Forms to gain a breakdown of megawatt hours of electricity generated by each utility company by fuel source. Utility companies that relied on fossil fuels for at least 50% of their power generation in 2011 are added to our database. If they used more coal than gas they are categorized as coal. If power generation is just one of many things a company or public utility does we did not include them.

Can I see how much my state representative took?

The site currently only includes contributions to Members of U.S. Congress – i.e. the Senate and House of Representatives. It does not include data on representatives to state legislature. Yet many battles related to fossil fuels take place at the local level, so if you’re working on a local issue you should also check out the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Why don't the column in the table views add up to the representative's total?

The most common reason for this is that the filter settings (see 'Filters' above) are hiding some of the contributions in order to simplify the display. The hidden contributions are still included in the totals. To view more the contributions, you can set the contribution limit lower, or look at politician's profile view.

What do the negative values mean? Are politicians paying oil companies now?

Well, not directly. Negative values usually indicate repayment of a debt, or the return of a contribution from an earlier year.

What do the companies 'Oil & Gas' or 'Oil & Gas Exploration' mean?

Some people who work in the oil and gas industry list their occupations as 'self-employed' or 'consultant,' so we don't know exactly which company they work for.

Is this showing me the money they accepted while in office, or the money they got while running for office?

For each congressional session we show the members of congress who were in office and the contributions they received during that session. Since Senators have six-year terms, we are only showing two years of their term at a time.

How do I find the specific contribution I'm looking for on the FEC form?

Each FEC form image corresponds to three or more contributions. In most cases the campaign committee for the representative receiving the donation is listed at the top of the page. The transactions are usually identified by the letters 'A, B, C' in the left margin. Next to each letter is the name of the contributor, below is the address and employer information. The amount of the contribution is shown in the box on the right.

When I look at the image of the report filing from the FEC I see a different year entered for the campaign, why?

Sometimes politicians use contributions to pay off debts from old campaigns, or have already begun collecting for future campaigns.

Why are contributions from 'Mrs. Bigoil' included with 'Very Big Oil Company Inc.' when she doesn't work there?

One of the ways that campaigns get around contribution limits is to have the representatives' spouses and family members make contributions. CRP matches up individuals who have the same last names and addresses as company executives and includes them as well.

What's a Dirty Dollar?

Dirty Dollar example

A Dirty Dollar is a printable keepsake to remind you just how much dirty energy money your favorite representative has taken. Print several hundred and spread the word on how much Dirty Energy Money your Representatives have taken! Just visit any politician profile and click the 'Dirty Dollar' on the Take Action tab.

How can I spread the word?

Dirty Energy Money makes it easy to spread the word to your friends and family. Check out the Take Action button, as well as the Take Action tab within the politician, company or Congress pages to share results of your politician, company or Congress search via Twitter, Facebook, or as an embeddable widget like the one on the right.

Where can I find more about the influence of oil companies in American politics?

You are in the right place, check out the rest of the Oil Change International website.

Where can I find more information about other kinds of contributions to politicians?

Check out the websites of the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and MapLight.org. You also might be interested in our friends at Public Campaign, who lead the campaign for public financing of elections.

Who built the site?

This site is a project of Oil Change International, developed by Greg Michalec and Skye Bender-deMoll and designed by Diligent Creative. Earlier versions of the site were named 'Follow the Oil Money' and 'Follow the Coal Money'.

What software did you use?

The data are stored in a MySql database. We use PHP to build the web pages and to format the data in order run through the open-source Graphviz software to compute the positions of the companies and representatives on the layout. The resulting image is combined with custom Javascript code and SVG to create the interactive elements. The interactive tables are created in part using the Prototype script.aculo.us and TableKit ajax libraries.

Still have questions>

Contact us at info@priceofoil.org.