By Zaid Jilani
Thanks to the Citizens United decision at the Supreme Court, the ultra-rich and corporations are essentially freed up to give unlimited amounts of money to organizations called Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that, while technically legally barred from directly coordinating with campaigns, can do everything else they can to promote candidacies.
Farris and Dan Wilks, billionaires who have enriched themselves from the fracking frenzy in West Texas, made a “record-setting” $15 million contribution to the pro- Ted Cruz Super PAC Keep The Promise. This is the largest-known donation by any individuals in the 2016 race so far.
When billionaires can give so much money – recall that $15 million is the total that progressive candidate Bernie Sanders raised from hundreds of thousands of small donors – it should be no surprise that they will have influence over a politician’s point of view.In early 2014, Cruz introduced his so-called American Energy Renaissance Act, which among other things curtailed the federal government’s power to regulate fracking altogether while opening up more land and offshore territory to dirty energy exploration.
He appeared at the Heritage Foundation’s 501(c)4 wing, Heritage Action, to promote his bill. Rather than engage seriously in the debate over fracking, which would involve taking note of environmental and safety concerns, Cruz sung the gospel of the process. He called the fracking boom a “providential blessing,” literally applying messianic language to the process. Cruz also praised Pennsylvania for its embrace of fracking in the Marcellus shale, and condemned New York for its cautiousness on the process.
The Wilks brothers are in a way the perfect funders for Cruz. Not only do they make their fortune off of fracking that the senator has embraced, but they are heavily courting the Christian Right, which is an ally Cruz is seeking in the upcoming primary. They fund a network of anti-gay and anti-Muslim organizations, as well as home school networks and right-wing think tanks.
“The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the young generation, so they’re using the riches the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals,” gushed the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody in 2013.
That quote may reveal more about the philosophy underpinning the alliance between the Christian Right and dirty energy than Brody realized. Old-school Christian asceticism and concern for the poor and the earth has been replaced by worshiping at the altar of the fracking rig.
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