The North Carolina Republican Senate nominee has repeatedly sided with the energy sector over environmental protections.
Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), his party's nominee for Senate this November, voted in May against a bill to prohibit price gouging by oil and gas companies. Just one day earlier, he took the legal maximum contribution from a major fossil fuel company's political action committee.
In recent weeks, Budd has focused on gasoline prices, which have been at record highs since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Congress' subsequent decision to suspend Russian oil and gas imports. Budd himself voted for that boycott, which passed the House in March with strong bipartisan support.
Budd has claimed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not really the cause of the price hike. "This is absolutely ridiculous. It's not [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's fault," he told Fox Business on June 13.
"The Biden admin doesn't care about high gas prices or they would fix it," he tweeted on June 15 after proposing an amendment to force the federal government to issue more permits for drilling on public lands. "It's that simple. #ncsen #ncpol."
But in May, Budd and every other House Republican voted against the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, which would bar energy companies from "exploiting the circumstances related to an energy emergency to increase prices unreasonably." The bill passed in the House of Representatives on May 19, on a mostly party-line vote of 217-207. It is now awaiting action in the Senate, where the Republican minority can block it through the filibuster.
One day before Budd cast his no vote, Continental Resources Inc. Political Action Committee — the political arm of a major energy company — gave the legal maximum of $5,000 to Budd's campaign, according to Federal Election Commission disclosure forms.
in June, gas prices hit record highs — averaging more than $5 per gallon. According to AAA, the average has since dropped by more than 40 cents per gallon, but remains well above the previous record. While the high prices have hit consumers hard, they have been a boon for Continental Resources and other energy companies, which have seen massive profits and avoided steps that might bring prices down.
Spokespersons for Budd and Continental Resources did not respond to inquiries for this story. But the energy company noted it saw "a record year of performance" last year.
"In 2021, Continental achieved a record level of annual adjusted earnings per share alongside a nearly 15% return on capital employed and a Company record $2.6 billion of free cash flow," Continental Resources CEO Bill Berry said in February. "Given operational excellence across our premier asset portfolio, we will continue to strongly compete by expanding return of capital to shareholders while providing above average S&P 500 and industry return on capital employed through 2022 and beyond."
This is not the first time Budd has sided with oil and gas industry donors over the interests of his constituents.
On Sept. 11, 2019, he voted against a ban on offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast. The legislation — which passed in the House, but was killed by the then-GOP majority in the Senate — would have protected North Carolina's coastal communities.
A week after that vote, Budd accepted $2,000 from Marathon Petroleum's PAC. A spokesperson for the company did not respond to an inquiry about the donation.
In December 2017, Budd voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Former President Donald Trump's tax plan slashed taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans while raising them for 10 million families — and saved 17 large oil and gas companies about $25 billion in taxes.
The "energy/environment" page on Budd's official House website boasts about his opposition to efforts that promote clean energy over the fossil fuels that spur climate change:
I support an "all of the above" energy strategy that embraces all of our country’s natural resources. The federal government should not be picking and choosing which energy sources get advantages. Fundamentally, Americans deserve the most affordable fuel available. Prioritizing the economic well-being of our fellow Americans leads to longer, more productive lives and increased prosperity. My priority is for our citizens to pay low prices at the gas pump and see lower energy bills in the mail.
Budd has consistently voted against climate protections while siding with oil and gas companies. According to the League of Conservation Voters scorecard, he voted pro-environment 0% of the time in 2021 and just 3% overall.
The industry has rewarded Budd for his loyalty. Since 2017, he has received more than $43,000 from oil and gas political action committees. According to OpenSecrets data, the sector has contributed at least $93,422 over the course of his political career.
Budd has frequently cast his lot with the corporate interests that fund him. In 2019, he opposed the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would have meant lower prescription drug costs for his constituents, just days before taking thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical industry PACs.
Budd will face Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley in November for the open seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).
Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, is running as a supporter of clean energy, a backer of climate change action, and an opponent of offshore drilling.
In May, she condemned Budd's vote against the energy price gouging bill.
"North Carolinians across the state are struggling with high gas prices and rather than holding big oil companies making record profits accountable for price gouging, Congressman Ted Budd once again has put corporate special interests above the needs of North Carolinians," she wrote. "It's clear: Congressman Budd is wrong for North Carolina."
Other Republican Senate candidates across the country have also sided with the oil and gas industry over consumers.
Pennsylvania Republican nominee Mehmet Oz scolded President Joe Biden in June for "reprehensible" attacks on oil and gas companies. "We're a brave people, we own our problems and we address them. He's doing the opposite. And the oil industry, natural gas folks who provide base energy for our nation and its growth are being vilified and they're being hurt in ways that are invisible to the voter, which is wrong," he said.
In May, Nevada Republican nominee Adam Laxalt blasted Democrats for "blaming greedy oil executives for our gas prices."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.