Oil and gas industry gears up to fight loss of tax breaks–by throwing money at politicians

The oil and gas industry’s largest trade group will begin direct contributions to political candidates as it ramps up for a fight over the Obama administration’s proposal to cut billions in tax breaks for energy companies.

“This is adding one more tool to our toolkit,” Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg in an interview. “At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate.”

Energy company giving has been heavily weighted toward Republicans.

Oil and gas companies and groups with political committees, such as the Washington-based Independent Petroleum Association of America, gave about 77 percent, or $19.6 million, of their total contributions for 2009-2010 to the Republican party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Oil and gas companies were the 15th largest source of political contributions leading up to the 2010 election.

Koch Industries Inc. was the industry’s largest contributor, giving $1.79 million to candidates, more than 90 percent of whom were Republicans. Exxon, which gave $1.33 million to congressional campaigns, was the second largest. More than 80 percent of Exxon’s money went to Republicans.

Pat Garafalo at Climate Progress writes that API’s move toward direct political contributions is especially troublesome because in addition to lobbying for the industry, it runs committees that set standards for the oil industry.

In its official report, the commission that investigated the BP oil spill found that API was too “compromised” to be setting industry standards. “Because they would make oil and gas industry operations potentially more costly, API regularly resists agency rulemakings that government regulators believe would make those operations safer, and API favors rulemaking that promotes industry autonomy from government oversight,” the commission found.

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