Beating the Oil Drum

Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe marvels at the irony of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama attacking oil and gas companies for skyrocketing prices while taking thousands in campaign contributions from these same companies. Campaign cash from the oil industry keeps presidential and congressional campaigns alike churning -- it's no wonder debate about their policies seems so conflicted.

Clinton and Obama are just today's most visible recipients of this campaign cash -- many other prominent lawmakers embroiled in controversy have found themselves explaining away the oil slicks on their campaign accounts:

 

Historically, political contributions from the oil companies are owned by the Republicans. All top 20 recipients of cumulative contributions from Exxon Mobil since 1990 are Republicans with President Bush at the top, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

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In the 2008 election cycle the second-biggest recipient of contributions from Exxon after the $39,730 for Republican Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, is Obama at $23,550. Clinton is in fourth place at $15,700. Both are ahead of the $8,450 for John McCain, the virtual nominee of the Republican Party.

Then there’s Chevron. The all-time leader in contributions from that company since 1990 is former California congressman Richard Pombo. Pombo was ousted from his House seat in 2006 in a fierce campaign by environmentalists enraged by his attempts to gut the Endangered Species Act.

But guess who is now number three in money from Chevron in the 2008 cycle? Clinton, at $9,350. Obama is seventh, at $7,263. Again, both are ahead of McCain’s $5,500.

How about British Petroleum? Its top-three all-time recipients in contributions since 1990 are Representative Don Young of Alaska, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, and Bush (uh, could that have anything to do with drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?). But look now who’s doing the drilling. The number two recipient in the current cycle is Obama at $10,196, more than double what BP has given to Stevens.

Oil's hard to wash out, but if we want to have a real discussion about gas prices, environmental policy, and fuel efficiency we're going to have to wash out the influence of oil money on our elections.