This story was co-published by Mother Jones.
Voters in six Western states — Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada and Washington — will head to the polls Nov. 6 with the chance to decide on hotly contested, statewide ballot measures that propose sweeping changes to environmental regulations.
Standing to lose billions in future profits, oil, gas and mining companies are opening deep pocketbooks to throw their substantial weight against those initiatives that impact topics ranging from renewable energy to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Supporters of the measures are being badly outspent but are weighing in with millions of dollars, as well.
While groups on both sides claim to be grassroots coalitions of local residents or in-state businesses, in reality much of the cash is coming from out of state.
Groups leading the opposition against those six environmentally focused ballot measures have raised more than $107 million combined this election cycle, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state campaign finance records.
All told, as of Oct. 26, oil, gas and mining interests account for 99 percent of contributions to political committees opposing four of the ballot measures. Many of those donors are headquartered in Houston or Canada. While the Nevada measure has minimal opposition, in the sixth state, Arizona, the fight against a proposed renewable energy standard has received 98 percent of its funding from the state’s largest utility company.
In comparison, the groups officially supporting the measures have taken in less than half as much, about $45 million. But nearly three out of every five dollars in favor of the ballot initiatives have come from California-based billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action group, which single-handedly funded the efforts in Arizona and Nevada.