Let's take a moment to meet the new leadership of our state's legislature. And to check out a few numbers that could portend a rough time for the guy who will be the next governor.
The first number? Try $49 million, the amount of money spent by the energy industry on lobbying and political contributions in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2014. That figure comes from a new site, Marcellusmoney.org, and a just-completed study by the site's operator, Common Cause PA, the non-partisan group that promotes integrity in government.
The new majority leadership in the state House and Senate reflects two shifts – an ideological one towards the right, led by baseball bat-wielding garbage guy Sen. Scott Wagner, and a geographic one, from suburban Philly to the central and western portions of the state – in other words, shale country.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the gentlemen who find themselves among the legislature's leadership also have been the recipients of some hefty checks from drillers. New Senate majority leader Jake Corman? About $90,000, good for 14th on the Common Cause PA list. New Speaker of the House Mike Turzai? About $272,000, the fourth-highest total on the list. New House majority leader Dave Reed? About $179,000, or sixth on the list. And Sen. Joe Scarnati, who held his seat as president pro tem? He took in about $500,000, good for third on the list.
Who had the best seat on the gravy train? That would be outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett, who received just under $2.1 million from the industry in those seven years.
It's pretty clear that the GOP has been the primary target of the industry's efforts to win friends and influence people, but Democrats are bringing in some significant cash as well. Neither Jack Wagner nor Dan Onorato have run for a state level office in several years, but both make the list for six-figure totals over the life of the study, good for fifth on the list for Mr. Onorato and 10th for Mr. Wagner.
The $139,000 taken in by State Sen. Tim Solobay didn't help him much on election day – despite having in the ninth-highest total, Mr. Solobay lost his re-election bid. Sen. Jay Costa just won re-election as the Senate minority leader he's received almost $80,000, good for 16th on the list.
And not even the office of our governor-elect is free of energy industry money. Katie McGinty, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in the spring and will serve as Tom Wolf's chief of staff, received a total of nearly $73,000 – that's 17th on the list. And at No. 20 is Mr. Wolf himself; the new governor-to-be accepted more than $53,000 in donations from the industry he promised to tax.
What does this mean? It means we probably shouldn't be surprised that Pennsylvania is the only shale-energy state that doesn't levy an extraction tax of any kind.
And even if Mr. Corman hadn't told the AP that he wouldn't want to impose a severance tax if it endangered the state's hopes for a Shell cracker plant in Beaver County, it means we should be even less surprised when Mr. Wolf struggles to enact the single most concrete promise from his successful campaign – to fund education in the commonwealth with – hello – a severance tax.
It's probably too soon to write off Mr. Wolf's chances with the new General Assembly – but it might not be a bad idea for the incoming governor to have a Plan B in mind.