Have your calls and requests for safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure fallen on deaf ears? Are your elected officials not listening to your concerns? Unfortunately, the individuals we elect to represent our interests and needs often overlook their constituency. Instead, our elected officials represent the interests of their biggest and most considerate donors.
In fact, studies show that the more money a politician raises from outside his or her district, the less they actually represent their constituency. Instead of voting to reflect your interests and needs, and supporting the projects you want, elected officials often voice the opinion of their benefactors.
Safe Infrastructure and Other Policy Issues
Safe infrastructure seems like an issue that everyone should be able to get behind. Two primary benefits of installing bike lanes and pedestrian walkways are the reduction of environmentally-destructive emissions and an increase in public health.
Who wouldn’t love to see these positive effects of safe infrastructure? Individuals who profit from industries that rely on the destruction of the environment and poor public health. That’s who.
Oil, Gas, and Energy
Has your elected official accepted financial contributions from companies, individuals, or organizations with strong ties to the oil, gas, and/or energy industries? Have those same officials refused to seriously consider alternative infrastructure projects in your state? You may want to consider the fact that their allegiances have been swayed. They may be your elected official, but they may no longer be your representative.
Supporting alternative modes of transportation would be harmful to the oil, gas, and energy industries. These industries are often caught up in the controversial argument surrounding climate change. There is overwhelming scientific evidence to support the fact that climate change is very real and accelerated by human activity. Specifically, human activity involving fossil fuels and carbon emissions. The oil, gas, the energy industries would be the first to go if climate change were a widely accepted concept.
Unfortunately, many elected officials refuse to acknowledge that climate change is real. Their statements and official votes speak volumes about where their loyalties lie.
Elected officials who have accepted money from oil/gas/energy and supported their policies include:
- Paul Ryan (R-WI): Received $486,405 in 2017-2018 and has gone on record to say “I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think science does, either.”
- John Barrasso (R-WY): Received $354,500 in 2017-2018 and has gone on record to say “The climate is constantly changing. The role human activity plays is not known.”
- Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND): Received $323,844 in 2017-2018 and voted in support of S.J. Res. 24, which voids the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and key climate change policy initiatives.
- John Cornyn (R-TX): Received $270,559 in 2017-2018 and has gone on record to say “Taxpayer funded research by NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) concerning the warmest years on record has been the subject of dispute and after challenges, has been changed and re-released. What is less known is why the changes were made and what inherent flaws existed in the original data, if any.”
- Greg Walden (R-OR): Received $217,000 in 2017-2018 and voted in support of S.J. Res. 24, which voids the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and key climate change policy initiatives.
- Kevin Cramer (R-ND): Received $210,050 in 2017-2018 and has gone on record to say “These mandates and these wind farms are all based on this fraudulent science from the EPA, meaning their claim that CO2 is a pollutant and is causing global warming… So the idea that CO2 is somehow causing global warming is on its face fraudulent.”
- Roger Wicker (R-MS): Received $193,750 in 2017-2018 and has gone on record to say “Science shows that there is an increase of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. But it has not been compellingly proven that mankind is responsible for the rise in atmospheric CO2, nor is it clear what impact CO2 has on Earth’s temperatures.”
- Ted Cruz (R-TX): Received $154,528 in 2017-2018 and has voiced a continued refusal to acknowledge that climate change is very real. During his bid for the presidency, 57 percent of Cruz’s financial support derived from “fossil fuel interests.”
- Donald Trump: Received $135,117 in 2017-2018 and has been very vocal about his disdain for climate change. He has gone on record to call it a “Chinese hoax” and his administration is responsible for some of the most devastating cuts to climate regulations in recent history.
While both Democrats and Republicans have accepted significant financial donations from the oil, gas, and energy industries, Republicans tend to be the most well-funded. In 2015, the fossil fuel industry “collectively pumped” an excess of $100 million into the campaigns of Republican presidential candidates. That’s about one out of every three dollars those candidates received. While receiving financial support that not mean that loyalties will shift, there is strong evidence to support that this is increasingly problematic.
Pharmaceutical and Health
Pharmaceutical companies do not make money by curing illness or disease. These companies stay rich by profiting on sick Americans. Health insurance companies also profit from illness, disease, and the country’s growing obesity epidemic. It would be contrary to their policy initiatives, then, to support projects that increase public and personal health.
Again, accepting money from individuals or companies with ties to pharmaceutical companies or health industries does not automatically mean that your elected official will not represent your interests. However, it also does not mean that their allegiance will not shift. It can be more difficult to get funding for the policy measures you want if the people in control of the purse strings have been compromised.
Elected officials who have accepted money from pharmaceutical manufacturers include:
- Greg Walden (R-OR): Received $180,000 in 2017-2018.
- Paul Ryan (R-WI): Received $176,375 in 2017-2018.
- Orrin Hatch (R-UT): Received $174,689 in 2017-2018.
- Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): Received $154,750 in 2017-2018.
- Jon Tester (D-MT): Received $121,181 in 2017-2018.
- Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): Received $97,875 in 2017-2018.
- Robert Menendez (D-NJ): Received $91,945 in 2017-2018.
- Linda Sanchez (D-CA): Received $85,904 2017-2018.
Find Out Where Your Representative Stands
Money is very powerful, especially in your state capital and Washington, D.C. It’s important to understand that your efforts to bring safe infrastructure to your state, city, or neighborhood may well be falling on deaf ears because your representative no longer represents you.
What can you do?
First, find out who your local, state, and federal representatives are. Once you’ve got a list, search through public records to find out where they stand on certain issues and from whom they’ve accepted campaign contributions. Again, accepting a donation does not necessarily mean that allegiances will be swayed. However, money can be very influential in politics. It cannot hurt to take a look at how your elected official rose to power.
If you suspect that your representative may be swayed by financial interests do not feel shy about asking them about it. Write a letter. Call their office. Set up a personal meeting. If you believe that your advocacy efforts for bicycle and pedestrian projects are being harmed by your elected official, let them know. Give them the chance to explain why they’ve been resistant to your proposals. Instead of accusing them of misconduct, try to change their mind. Much more will come from civil discourse and conversation than heated accusations.