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Since 1987, Fred Upton, 57, has represented Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, which spans the southwestern corner of the Wolverine State. The grandson of Whirlpool co-founder Frederick Upton, Upton has long been viewed as a moderate in his party, voting with House Republicans most of the time, but breaking ranks on such issues as the 2007 Iraq War troop surge, which he opposed.

He and Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts changed daylight savings time by adding a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that extends the period so it starts earlier in the spring and ends later in the fall. Upton has also authored the law creating a billion-dollar program to ensure that first responders could communicate with each other during times of national crises, as the Sept. 11, 2001 commission recommended.

Much of his campaign funds have come from telecommunications companies, as well as from the electric utilities and the drug makers that have business before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

A senior GOP voice on energy policy, Upton is seen as front-runner to head the powerful Energy and Commerce panel. The committee has wide jurisdiction over matters such as health care, energy, consumer safety, telecommunications, and trade. Already, Upton has sharpened his rhetoric in making his case for the post — penning an October 18 op-ed in The Washington Times and doing an interview with Politico in which he railed against the “poisonous regulations” of the Obama administration. Upton also opposed a comprehensive climate and energy bill.

“His rhetoric seems more in line with his party than with his past,” said Anne Woiwode, of the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter. Unlike others eyeing this chairmanship, Upton has never been perceived as anti-green.

In fact, Upton scored 39 percent on the League of Conservation Voters 2009 annual report ranking Congress members on their actions on the environment — the 12th highest score in the Republican caucus, according to the group’s Tiernan Sittenfeld.

But given Upton’s recent positions, Woiwode added, “it’s a bit unclear where he’s heading.”

Top PAC contributions

  • AT&T, the telecommunications giant — at least $40,000
  • Comcast, provider of cable television, phone, Internet services — at least $40,000
  • National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the principal trade association for the cable industry — at least $40,000
  • Verizon, another telecommunications behemoth — at least $36,000
  • Koch Industries, an energy and chemical manufacturing company — at least $32,500
  • PACs gave at least $2,244,741 to Upton’s campaign account and his Team Republicans for Utilizing Sensible Tactics leadership PAC. Upton received over $1.3 million more in contributions from PACs than from individuals

Revolving door


  • Congressman Upton has secured over three dozen earmarks between 2008 and 2010, totaling at least $33 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • Upton obtained $2 million for an “advanced digital hydraulic drive system” in 2010. Eaton Corporation, manufacturer of hydraulics components, was the intended recipient. The earmark was one of several earmark requests made in conjunction with Democratic senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow
  • Upton obtained $1.6 million for a terminal at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport in 2009, again with Levin and Stabenow. He secured another $490,000 for the airport on his own, in 2008
  • He secured $1.6 million for Western Michigan University’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Design and Simulation

Stimulus letters

  • Upton voted against the 2009 stimulus bill but requested “due consideration” by the Energy Department for Fisher Energy’s stimulus application to develop vertical axis wind turbines, stressing that it would create “more green employment opportunities in this state that has suffered the largest manufacturing jobs loss in our nation”
  • Upton also wrote to the Department of Commerce, requesting it consider Bloomingdale Communication’s stimulus proposal to bring broadband to Van Buren County, Michigan


  • Upton has promised to investigate the “job-killing regulations” proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • He has pledged to dismantle a House climate panel that has held more than 50 hearings on the risks of global warming since its creation, in 2007, by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the panel “wasteful”
  • He has promised to “restore the necessary oversight that our Founding Fathers envisioned” by challenging the Obama administration on a variety of issues

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Kristen Lombardi is the Columbia Journalism Investigations editor.