Pro-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) interests are growing in stature among political campaign contributors, according to a public interest advocacy group, which attributes their increased spending to increased discussion of the well stimulation practice.

Contributions from the industry to House and Senate candidates from districts and states home to fracking activity rose by 231% between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles, from approximately $2.1 million to $6.9 million, the group said. In contrast, industry contributions to candidates from non-fracking districts rose by 131%, from approximately $2.2 million to $5.1 million, over the same time period.

The report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), “Natural Cash: How the Fracking Industry Fuels Congress” used federal campaign contribution data tracked by MapLight.

“Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “As CREW’s report shows, the fracking boom isn’t just good for the industry, but also for congressional candidates in fracking districts.”

Increases in federal campaign contributions from the fracking industry correlate with the intensifying debate over whether the federal government should have more oversight of the industry, CREW said. For example, the biggest increase in industry contributions — nearly 41% between the 2010 and 2012 election cycles — came at a time when Congress was actively debating fracking.

The Republican-led House recently began debating a bill to prohibit the federal government from regulating fracking (see Shale Daily, Nov. 20).

The top 10 recipients of fracking industry contributions are a mix of industry supporters and Republican leadership. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, received the most contributions, taking in $509,447 between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles. That was more than $100,000 more than the next closest recipient, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who received $384,700.

While serving as chairman of the committee, Barton sponsored the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Overall, nearly 80% of fracking industry contributions went to Republican congressional candidates.