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Rallying for an "Oil Free" Congress

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A rally was held Wednesday night in Buffalo to promote an end to big oil companies donating to congressional campaigns as gasoline prices soar.

Local members of MoveOn gathered outside a gas station at the busy intersection of Delaware and Kenmore.

Organizer Reg Roberts decided to join the national day of action that calls for an "Oil Free" congress. Rallies were held in about 300 U-S locations. Roberts says MoveOn wants citizens to know that some members of congress and the senate have accepted campaign contributions from big oil companies. According to MoveON, since 1990, oil companies have contributed more than $190 million to members of congress.

"And approximately 75% of those donations have gone to republicans," said Roberts.

Western New York Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds has accepted more than $12,000 from '05-06 from the oil and gas industry according to his campaign contribution filing records.

Reynolds was not available for comment. But his spokesman, L. D. Platt, says it was House republicans who have taken action against gas gouging through the Gasoline America For Security Act passed last fall.

"The bill encourages new refineries in order increase gas supplies and address rising prices. It also promotes conservation through car pooling, and a fuel efficiency awareness campaign. It requires the FTC to study credit card processing fees which often inflate consumer costs. Democrats and their front groups have time in again stood in the way of these efforts,and other efforts to increase the supply of domestic gasoline," said Platt.

Platt says Reynolds has been a leading advocate for the ethanol fuel plant in Orleans County and is fighting for funding to research fuel cells at the Delphi plant in Rochester.

Still, MoveOn says it is the republicans who have consistently rejected the democrats attempts to move toward energy independence and a clean energy policy. Roberts says MoveOn is calling for lawmakers to create alternative energy sources.

"We need to be really aggressive and creative. We need to see congress take drastic steps in making this a main focus, and we are just not seeing that at all," Roberts said.

But Roberts does admits is not just republicans accepting the oil company campaign contributions. "I don't think either party really has totally clean hands overall," said Roberts.

In fact, the Center For Responsive Politics keeps a listing of a number of campaign contributions given to members of Congress. Western New York Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins has received about $3,000 from Oil and Gas companies in 2005-2006.