Big oil protects its interests

Industry spends hundreds of millions on lobbying, elections

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The United States is the oil and gas industry's biggest customer, slurping up fully a quarter of global production in 2003.

Not surprisingly, the industry has lavished more than $420 million* over the past six years on politicians, political parties and lobbyists in order to protect its interests in Washington, according to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity.

This is the first of a series of Center reports that aim to identify the size and scope of the international oil and gas industry and measure its influence in the halls of government worldwide.

Among the key findings:

  • The Center found that the industry has spent more than $354 million* on lobbying activities since 1998, pushing hard on everything from a new national energy policy to obscure changes in the tax code.

  • The industry has given more than $67 million in campaign contributions in federal elections since the 1998 election cycle, about a fifth of the amount it has spent on lobbying.

  • Oil and gas companies overwhelmingly favored Republicans over Democrats in their campaign giving, the study found. Just over 73 percent of the industry's campaign contributions have gone to Republican candidates and organizations.

  • The industry exerts its influence in other, less obvious ways, including membership on the National Petroleum Council, a commission formed to advise the energy secretary. Koch Industries, the largest privately-held oil company in the United States, has financed a network of conservative nonprofit organizations designed to influence policy debate in this country.

  • U.S.-based oil and gas companies have nearly 900 subsidiaries located in tax haven countries, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

The world's largest oil company and third largest company of any kind, ExxonMobil, was the industry's leader in lobbying expenditures, spending $51 million*

Other big spenders included ChevronTexaco ($27 million*), Marathon Oil ($27 million*), British oil giant BP ($24 million*), and British/Dutch behemoth Royal Dutch/Shell Group ($25 million*).

Other noteworthy entries on the list include the top industry group, the American Petroleum Institute ($14 million**).

Some more notorious names on the list include scandal-plagued Enron Corp. ($10 million*) and Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer Halliburton Corp. ($2.4 million*), which is currently the subject of government investigations over its contract work in Iraq and alleged bribes paid in connection with a natural gas project in Nigeria.

When it came to tapping the oil industry for campaign dollars, no one has come close to former Texas oilman George W. Bush. The president has received $1.7 million in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry.

That was more than three times the amount given to the next biggest recipient of the industry's largesse, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and fellow Texan Joe Barton, who collected $574,000. Next came another Texas Republican, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who took in just under $500,000.

Only three Democrats were able to crack into the top 20 recipients of oil and gas campaign contributions since 1998. All three came from oil-rich Louisiana.

They were Sen. Mary Landrieu, Sen. John Breaux and Rep. Christopher John.

The two national parties each took in more than any individual candidate, national Republican committees getting $24 million and Democrats a bit under $8 million.

While most of the big oil and gas companies operate their own lobbying shops in Washington, the industry also farmed out a substantial amount of its work to some of Washington's largest and most influential lobbying firms.

On the top of that list was Bracewell and Patterson, which has gotten $4,880,000 in lobbying work from the oil and gas industry since 1998.

Among the partners at Bracewell and Patterson is Marc Racicot, the former Montana governor who is the chairman of the Bush-Cheney 2004 election campaign. Edward Krenik, former head of congressional and intergovernmental relations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a lobbyist with the firm.

Other top Washington lobbying firms that got work from the oil and gas industry include Hill & Knowlton; Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and National Environmental Strategies Company.

Note to readers: This story has been reposted. Since the report was originally released, the Center for Public Integrity has changed the way it calculates lobbying expenditures to reflect a more stringent methodology for determining the total amounts. The change was made to correct the potential overstatement of totals. Figures or relevant text that have been changed are indicated with asterisks. (3/31/2006)

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