Its never surprising to see members of Congress toss softball questions to witnesses they’ve summoned to Washington to make political points. But even some jaded eyebrows in Washington were raised last week when Rep. Fred Upton tossed a bunch of softball questions to the chairman of a DTE Energy, a company that is one of his largest political donors.

It gets worse: In the month before the hearing, Upton received $12,000 from DTE Energy’s staff and PAC. Contributors included DTE Energy’s Chairman/CEO, President, Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President and Attorney.   In fact, DTE donated more than $19,000 to Rep. Upton during 2009-2010 and was his 5th largest contributor.

DTE Energy donates to a number of politicians from both political parties, but these donations in the weeks before a hearing on air pollution are notable — especially since DTE Energy is being sued by the EPA for violating the Clean Air Act for failing to install required pollution controls on its biggest coal-fired power plants(one of the dirtiest in the nation).

Not surprisingly, Upton asked softball questions of DTE’s Chairman/CEO Anthony Earley, Jr. and echoed the dirty energy industry’s messaging. Watch it here

Is it any wonder that Rep. Upton has been repeatedly criticized for promoting special interest’s profits over the public health?

You can read the NRDC’s testimony on the same topic or this blog post .

You can also watch NRDC’s John Walke testimony at the same hearing here

Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the Director of the NRDC Action Fund. With more than 13 years of experience in federal politics as a public interest lobbyist, political consultant and on Capitol Hill, she has expertise in federal energy, environmental health, and appropriations issues. Prior to becoming director of the NRDC Action Fund, Ms. Taylor-Miesle was the associate legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the world’s premier environmental organizations. Prior to her position at the NRDC, Ms. Taylor-Miesle worked on Capitol Hill, first as an aide to now Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) and then as a senior staff member for current Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis (D-CA). Follow Heather and NRDC's Action Fund on Facebook(