Doug Lamborn's oil-shale move: Is he a cheap date for the energy industry?

I know, I know. There are lots of other folks out there struggling to make ends meet, unsung worker drones subsisting on sweatshop wages. But let's face it: Doug Lamborn is underpaid.

I'm not talking about his base salary of $174,000 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. That's standard. But the real gravy -- the gratuities, emoluments, wet kisses and campaign support he receives from the oil and gas industry in exchange for services rendered -- it's a disgrace, frankly.

This week, Representative Lamborn demonstrated yet again what a champ he can be when the cause is dear to his heart -- ramming through committee his "Pioneers Act" legislation, which seeks to open up millions of acres of land in western Colorado and elsewhere for oil-shale development. It's a Frankensteinish revival of a Bush-era plan to extract vast hydrocarbon reserves out of solid rock by crushing and burning the hell out of it, a plan tabled by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in the first months of the Obama administration.

Extracting the good stuff out of the rock requires vast amounts of water and energy, leaves a potential environmental disaster in its wake, and has not yet proven to be a commercially viable proposition with current technology -- all of which leads the usual tree-huggers and spoilsports to attack Lamborn's dream in this account from the Colorado Independent.

No surprise there, but where is the love from the drill-baby-drill crowd? Here's Lamborn, fighting the good fight for one of the nastiest of all fossil fuel follies -- one that has a particularly cursed history in his home state, as anybody who was around during the oil-shale bust of the 1980s might recall -- and what's he getting back?

Damn near squat, that's what. Federal Election Commission filings indicate that mining and oil-and-gas interests toss Lamborn a bone now and then -- a few thousand from Chevron and Exxon, $21,000 from the Koch brothers, here a PAC, there a PAC. But it's paltry compared to what's lavished on a few voluptuous congressmen from Texas. On a list compiled by Common Cause of how much money various senators and representatives have received from the fracking industry over the past decade, Lamborn clocks in at 63rd, with $96,600.

That's more than any other Colorado politician, but come on -- divided by five years of hard work, it's hardly even powder-room money these days. And in the latest election cycle, he's getting even less dough from Big Oil than up-and-comer freshman Cory Gardner, who ranks eleventh in the House for such donations, according to the latest rankings from

Sure, it's always the fresh-faced thing that gets all the attention. Representative Lamborn, don't let them cast you off like an old shoe. Demand your due.

More from our Shmuck of the Week archive: "Doug Lamborn's shmucky tantrum results in a sorry state of the union."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast

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