Rep. Poliquin votes with Big Oil and Wall Street against Maine lobstermen

Rep. Poliquin votes with Big Oil and Wall Street against Maine lobstermen

Ask a Maine lobsterman how the industry looks long-term and he’ll likely give you a mixed verdict. Global climate change has rapidly warmed Maine’s waters of late, which has led to a few years of record catches. Lobsters rely on cold water, so they’re fleeing former lobster hotbeds like Massachusetts for colder water to the north. Today that means Massachusetts lobsters are moving to Maine. Tomorrow that will mean Maine lobsters will leave for New Brunswick and beyond.

Though most of the attention from carbon dioxide production has been on changes to the air temperature, melting ice caps, and aberrant weather, there’s another consequence to Maine’s signature industry: ocean acidification. Carbon dioxide is mildly acidic and that acid is being absorbed in huge numbers by our oceans. This acidic ocean is eating away at the shells of shellfish like lobsters, clams, and shrimp.

Image from a University of Rhode Island study that found decreased growth and molting rates of juvenile lobsters under acidic conditions.

Image from a University of Rhode Island study that found decreased growth and molting rates of juvenile lobsters under acidic conditions.

A January 2015 report commissioned by the Maine Legislature found an urgent need for action on carbon emissions to avert massive harm to the state’s shellfish industry. It is no surprise then that Members of Congress up and down the New England coast, including Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven), have championed efforts to fight carbon emissions.

And yet, Maine’s other congressman, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland), has been firmly opposed to combating the threat to this iconic and vital industry. As recently as 2010, Poliquin disputed the broad consensus of climate scientists and has even questioned whether humans cause climate change, saying “clearly our climate is changing; the question is, is man responsible for that climate change? I personally am suspect.”

Since joining Congress, he has voted with climate deniers every chance he could, including voting against research on climate change, against funding for clean energy projects, and in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

So why does a congressman who represents lobstermen from Belfast to Lubec regularly vote against the economic and cultural interests of his constituents? We can’t know for sure, but there is one clear possibility: money.

Independent fishermen, struggling to make ends meet at the traditional way of life for coastal Mainers, are rarely in a position to make the kind of large political contributions that can sway votes in congress. But you know who can? The big oil, coal, and trucking companies that produce the most ocean-acidifying carbon. And Bruce Poliquin has been more than happy to take that money off of their hands.

According to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), in the 2014 cycle alone, Poliquin raised over $80,000 from the energy and transportation industries. This is on top of the almost $250,000 he raised from Wall Street, which is notoriously invested in carbon production.

Just yesterday, the Center revealed that Poliquin has raked in the second-most Wall Street money of any candidate in a competitive race, anywhere in the country.

Though CRP does not aggregate donations from the seafood industries, searches show approximately $8,000 in donations from those who work in shell- or finfish related industries.

In other words, even ignoring all of his Wall Street money, Poliquin took ten times as much money from the industries that are contributing to carbon production as those that are hurt by it.

It’s no surprise Poliquin continues to vote with the energy companies and not with Maine’s lobstermen.

Photos via Twitter/Rep. Poliquin, University of Rhode Island


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