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Has the Pennsylvania Senate Race Become a Proxy War for National Interests?

When it comes to Beltway politics, all eyes are on the Pennsylvania Senate race. And the tight contest between incumbent Republican Pat Toomey and his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty could help decide which party controls the Senate.

Millions of dollars are flowing in from outside groups—including those aligned with fossil fuel interests and national environmental groups. The millions of dollars from big oil and big green reflect how the two candidates have starkly different views on energy, environment and climate change.

In the debate over the nation’s energy future, a lot rides on which party controls the U.S. Senate. So even if these are not the top issues for Pennsylvania voters, you can bet they are for the fossil fuel industry worried about new environmental regulations like the Clean Power Plan, as well as environmentalists racing to put a halt to a warming planet. On the airwaves and in mailboxes across the state, it’s as if two sides are waging a proxy war over energy and the environment in the Pennsylvania senate race.

The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign funds reported to the Federal Election Commission, recorded about $3.6 million spent by green groups like the League of Conservation Voters, NextGen Climate, Environment America Action Fund and Environmental Defense Action Fund to help elect Katie McGinty. The New American Jobs Fund, a super PAC formed by the League of Conservation Voters and the U.S. Steelworkers labor union, spent about $1 million in support of McGinty. In terms of donations from individuals working for environmental protection, as well as environmental PACs, McGinty’s campaign has raised $257,930.

For large national environmental groups, backing McGinty is a no-brainer. She was a protégé of Al Gore, she served as Pennsylvania’s environmental protection secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell and she is committed to fighting climate change. Toomey, on the other hand, while not denying climate change exists, has questioned whether humans are the primary cause. Toomey is an advocate of smaller government, which means fewer regulations across the board for energy production and fewer rules for environmental protection. A supporter of the coal industry, along with oil and gas, Toomey opposes the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s landmark proposal to make electricity cleaner and reduce carbon emissions.

Continue reading this story at StateImpact Pennsylvania »