Are environmental groups trying to control Congress through campaign contributions?
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Some Congressional lawmakers are reaping growing campaign contributions - courtesy of environmental groups.
While ABC 7 News is unaware of anything illegal about the contributions, there are increasing concerns about how that large amount of money is affecting U.S. environmental policies.
In 2013, the industry as a whole spent more than $14 million lobbying Congress for a variety of causes, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Enter Tom Steyer, the San Francisco businessman and billionaire who started NextGen Climate, an environmental advocacy group.
Steyer says he's planning on spending $100 million - including $50 million of his own money - to make climate change a major issue in the next election cycle.
He's already attacking some Republican candidates about environmental issues.
In the 2012 election cycle, environmental groups spent nearly $16 million making campaign contributions to candidates, OpenSecrets.org reports.
In that cycle, 91 percent of the money went to Democrats - but government waste opponent Peter Schweizer of the Government Accountability Institute believes there's a bipartisan problem that needs to be fixed.
"I think every individual should look online as to what their Congressman is invested in - whether it's oil companies, whether it's green energy companies - and ascertain whether that affects the way they're voting," Schweizer said.
The money being donated by environmental groups is significant, but
there are other organizations donating big bucks for their causes as well.
In 2013 lobbying on Capitol Hill totaled $3.2 billion, and reflected a wide range of industries.
Tom Steyer made his fortune as a hedge fund manager - Schwiezer said that fact merits scrutiny.
"In this particular case, the billionaire investor is invested in several hedge funds - that would benefit from the very program that he’s pushing, which is a series of national initiatives as it relates to climate change," Schwiezer said.
ABC 7 News contacted Tom Steyer for an interview through a representative, but he declined. We were told a series of questions we asked would be answered, but never received any response.