Citizen Staff Writer
By BLAKE MORLOCK
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl was recently named by Time among the 10 best senators in Washington. But another top 10 distinction has his opponents sensing opportunity.
The two-term Republican has raised $60,850 from the oil and gas lobby during the current election cycle, according to the money-in-politics Web site opensecrets.com. That ranks him No. 7 of 100 U.S. senators for industry contributions.
The Arizona Democratic Party has blasted Kyl for taking oil money while voting with the industry on issues such as drilling in Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, preventing oil sales from the national strategic reserves and coming out this week against taxpayer rebates to offset high gas prices.
Kyl faces a re-election battle this fall against Phoenix developer Jim Peterson, and gas prices figure to be a key issue.
“His voting record says that his chief concern is the welfare of oil and gas companies and consumers come in second,” said Kevin Griffis, spokesman for the Peterson campaign.
But Kyl pointed out Wednesday that he hasn’t been a big friend of big oil of late, voting against the industry-backed energy bill and introducing legislation to close a tax loophole oil companies now enjoy.
Also, the oil and gas companies that contributed to Kyl don’t rank among his top 20 contributors. The anti-Internet-gambling crusader is first among peers in money from the recreation and live entertainment industries.
Unlike five of the six senators ahead of him in oil contributions, Kyl doesn’t hail from an oil-producing state or sit on the committee that oversees energy production.
The senator said he isn’t surprised, though, that big business would back him.
“I’m free market guy,” he said. “Conservatives tend to favor me and liberals tend to oppose me.”
Senators don’t take positions to raise cash, Kyl said.
“People get into this business because they believe in something,” Kyl said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say politicians take a position because of money.”