by Lauren Geitz
Lissa Lucas (D) is running for a statehouse seat in District 7 of West Virginia. This first-time candidate was relativity unknown and had a modest long-term campaign goal of raising $1,500 to purchase yard signs. However, this all changed when she attended a West Virginia House Judiciary Committee in February.
Lissa Lucas got into politics because her grandfather left her his farm with a small gas well located on it. Recently more state politicians in WV have been accepting money from energy companies in exchange for passing legislation that gives energy companies authority over landowners property. Lissa wanted to bring awareness to this issue within her state by running for office and attending the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee meeting. This meeting was a hearing for a bill that allowed energy companies to use private property for drilling without getting the landowners permission. In attendance were several lobbyists for the energy companies, and Lissa Lucas.
She signed up for a speaking slot and started listing committee Republicans and the donations they had taken from donors linked to the oil-and-gas industry. Midway into her speech, committee chairman Del. John Shott (R) interrupted her and had her forcibly removed from the meeting for making “personal comments.”
Since the incident at the meeting occurred, Lissa Lucas has received over $20,000 in campaign donations.
Was committee chairman Del. John Shott (R) justifiable in having Lissa Lucas removed from the meeting?
Should politicians be allowed to receive donations from donors linked to the oil-and-gas industry?
In light of what we were supposed to read for class this week, I think this article is very interesting. In the reading, there were multiple court cases listed that involved a property owner fighting the government after the government intervened on individuals’ private property in order to protect the environment. However, the landowners mentioned in this article were fighting for their property rights against private industries that wanted to further harm the environment. I think that with both of these situations are simultaneously happening within our country, it shows how far we still have to go in relation to environmental policy. I also think with recent events happening in our country it was interesting to see the element of campaign finance that Lucas brought into the debate. After the Parkland school shooting happened in Florida, there were a lot of questions posed towards representatives who were still accepting campaign donations from the NRA. I think both of these recent events may be the beginning of a national discussion on campaign finance in the American political sphere. Overall, I think Lucas brought more recognition to land owners rights, which could be both beneficial and harmful for the environmental movement.
First, I really think something needs to be done about these Senators and Congressman who think they can mute or bar people at these meetings. I think one way to solve this is to stop letting Senators or Congressman have any control whatsoever on what members of the public get to say at “their” meetings.
To answer the question, no. Oil companies should not have the right to circumvent constituents. Politicians accepting sums of money for a vote is something that looks like corruption but is actually perfectly legal. This distorts a politician’s interests. Allowing private property to be confiscated may be unpopular with the constituents directly affected, but that doesn’t matter as long as the campaign money they receive can offset those losses. Farm owners in a small West Virginia town are no more a challenge to oil companies than a group of high school students are to the NRA. I hate that it has gotten to the point of having to scratch and claw over interest groups and massive companies just to get politicians to notice the folks who live and work in their district. It is especially disappointing that more and more, politicians do not actually serve these people.
I believe that the committee chairman was not justified in removing the candidate from the hearing. The information that the candidate was relaying was public record and the refusal to let her speak was simply because either they did not want their campaign finances broadcast to a more public forum, their feelings got hurt, or both. There was no personal comments directed toward anyone.
I don’t think it is a question as to whether politicians should receive donations from the oil and gas industry – politicians will always receive campaign contributions from organizations that align with their interests and political ideologies. However, politicians should not clam up and try to silence people when they try to bring this information to light.
Politicians will stop serving the wills of interest groups before that of their constituents when all constituents begin to exercise their right to vote. I agree with Nick, it is a sad day when the constituents voice is so strongly muted against that of an interest group; however i recognize that it is within the power of the constituent to rebalance the scales. If a politician is not representing you and your communities you have the power to replace him, election and re-election is a persuasive tool when trying to gain the attention of a politician, no matter how deeply filled his war chest is with Interest group donations. Having said this i think that their should be more transparency on the subject of donations, a constituent deserves the right to know who or where their candidate is getting funding from, which today is more closely resembled to “sponsorship”.
Lucas broadcasted the linkage between campaign donations and politicians involved with this land ownership bill, the evidence very clearly demonstrated who’s interest the politicians had in mind when they crafted and supported this bill. I think it will be interesting moving froward to see whether or not those politicians involved receive repercussions from the community members.
I agree with OD on how the committee chairman was not justified for the actions that occurred during the hearing. She was displaying actual evidence with her grandfather’s farm, while also bringing up the point about other oil companies. More senators should step forward and outwardly speak about the corruption that’s happening with big oil companies. The states obviously have control over the land ownership but it goes against policy to remove someones land from their position for economic purposes. Even if the comment was directed to anyone in the Republican committee, there shouldn’t be a dark variable left out in any circumstance
The forum for domestic property should be available information to the public but since this had to be basically campaigned for by of someone who has little political experience. Now I am not saying she doesn’t know anything because she obviously exploited how politicians get most of their funding. I am saying that she withheld the hearing valuable points with less experience than anyone else who arrived that day.
The first issue I would like to bring up is that almost no citizens of West Virginia own the mineral rights of their property. This is a major issue and how these lawmakers are able to disregard the landowners. The committee chairman, I believe, did have a right to eject Lissa Lucas from the meeting because her comments could be perceived as targeted attacks against the committee members, but I don’t think it was morally right. It is a difficult question to answer as to whether or not politicians should be able to receive donations from donors linked to different industries. On one hand this brings in more opportunities for industries that have more positive impacts on society and the environment to support candidates that will help. This will also give opportunities for the opposite to happen as well and I believe that if we did regulate these donations, the more morally grey industries will find more round about methods to fund their candidates so that the public doesn’t realize who is paying these politicians.