If you have any doubt that corporate interests have taken complete control of the government since the Supreme Court decided in their Citizens United ruling that corporations are people too and can give unlimited political donations as part of their free speech rights, a recent incident in the West Virginia House of Delegates should convince you.
According to a report on Common Dreams, Lissa Lucas, a woman from Cairo, West Virginia who is running for a seat representing fracking-plagued Ritchie County in the House, traveled to the state capital to testify against a bill sponsored by energy industry lobbyists that would allow oil and gas companies to drill on minority mineral owners’ land without their consent.
Speaking as a public citizen, Lucas had a limited time to give her comments on the bill which would strip people who own a fractional interest in the mineral rights to a piece of property from any say in the extraction of those resources.
When she was given her slot in front of the microphone, Lucas started by explaining why she was there to comment on the bill.
“The people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry,” she began. “And the people who are going to be voting on this bill are often also paid by the industry. I have to keep this short, because the public only gets a minute and 45 seconds while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whiskey and wine and talk for hours to the delegates,” Lucas continued.
At that point, the prospective political candidate did something that was unthinkable for the current members of the House of Delegates, she began to read a list of donations made by the oil and gas industry to members of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee that was holding the hearing on the bill.
“John Shott. First Energy $2,000. Appalachian Power $2,000. Steptoe & Johnson—that’s a gas and oil law firm—$2,000. Consol Energy $1,000. EQT $1,000. And I could go on.”
It turns out, however, that Shott, the chairman of the committee, had no desire for her to go on.
“Miss Lucas, we ask that no personal comments be made,” Shott interrupted.
“This is not a personal comment,” Lucas said.
“It is a personal comment and I am going to call you out of order if you are talking about individuals on the committee,” Shott said. “If you would, just address the bill. If not, I would ask you to just step down.”
Instead Lucas read the donations that her opponent in the upcoming election, Delegate Jason Harshbarger (R), an employee of Dominion Energy, had received from the energy industry.
“About 40 percent of his money (campaign contributions) comes from the oil and natural gas industry,” Lucas said.
At this point, Shott ordered two security officials to escort Lucas from the podium. Lucas insisted that she wanted to be able to finish her comments. As the security officers, pulled her away, she exclaimed “Drag me off then!”
There’s no way that the sitting West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee was going to allow their corrupt campaign finance details to be aired publicly and jeopardize the aims of their corporate benefactors just because the rights of a few people who own a minority of the interest in the minerals they covet are being trampled.
You can watch the West Virginia House of Delegates shut down an embarrassing public disclosure of their corrupt dealings in the video clip below.