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Report: Big Biofuels Bucks Behind SD Campaigns

November 3, 2010

PIERRE, S.D. - There were lots of big spenders behind the unprecedented amount of campaign spending in the lead-up to Tuesday's elections, but one industry in particular has had a major focus on South Dakota. A new report from finds the bio-fuels industry has spent millions in lobbying and campaign contributions in recent years, and the biggest recipients in each chamber of Congress are both from South Dakota.

Kate McMahon is bio-fuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

"Sen. John Thune, within the last two election cycles, he's received over $30,000 from the bio-fuels industry. Same thing with Rep. Herseth Sandlin -- she also received over $30,000 from the bio-fuels industry."

The lawmakers say campaign contributions don't influence their votes, but McMahon says both Thune and Sandlin have made votes that have been good for the bio-fuels business, but bad for South Dakota's environment.

"Corn ethanol is actually really bad for the environment. Everything from the amount of land that's necessary in order to produce corn ethanol, and what that does to compete with natural ecosystems, as well as food production, to the way in which that we're producing corn in this country. It uses a vast amount of chemical inputs and all sorts of things that run downstream."

The report details some cases in which legislators received several thousand dollars in contributions from groups such as The Renewable Fuels Association and National Biodiesel Board just a few days before introducing industry-friendly legislation. The report did not include large donations to independent committees that do not have to disclose their donors under a recent Supreme Court decision.

The report is at www.foe.org/sites/default/files/BiofuelsPoliticalCash.pdf.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD