Big Oil's Big Imprint on 2012

The top five oil companies have reported $62.2 billions in earnings through the second quarter of 2012. And on Thursday, these companies will begin releasing their earnings reports for the third quarter.

These companies, and the entire oil and gas industry, have been rewarding members of Congress who have voted repeatedly to keep in place billions of dollars in taxpayer handouts to Big Oil. They're spending big in hopes of electing a Congress—and president—who'll be pliant to their demands.

Oil and gas donors have given $49.6 million to federal candidates, party committees, and super PACs for the 2012 election, with 90 percent of that amount going to Republicans, according to analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s already 31 percent more than the industry spent in all of the 2008 election cycle.

The Big 5

In the first two quarters of 2012, the five largest oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, and Shell—earned a combined $62.2 billion. They’ve also spent a combined $110.7 million on campaign contributions and lobbying in 2011 and 2012.

  • The PAC and employees of Exxon Mobil have donated $2.8 million to federal candidates and committees this cycle and the company has spent $25.4 million on lobbying.
  • Chevron donors have spent just over $1.25 million on campaign contributions and the company spent $16.5 million on lobbying.
  • ConocoPhillips donors have spent $633,740 on campaign contributions and the company has spent $22.9 million on lobbying.
  • Royal Dutch Shell and its employees have spent $303,000 on campaign contributions and the company has spent $25.7 million on lobbying.
  • BP’s PAC and employees have spent $307,000 on campaign contributions and the company has spent $14.9 million lobbying Congress

(The lobbying numbers also include third quarter figures that were recently filed with the House Clerks office and may not be reflected in numbers at the Center for Responsive Politics)

Presidential Race

Between his campaign and the main super PAC supporting him, Restore Our Future, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has received $9.6 million in contributions from the oil and gas industry. In contrast, President Obama has received about five percent of that total, or just under $500,000 from oil and gas donors.

Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, is rumored to be up for a top position in a Romney administration.

Congress

So far this cycle, oil and gas donors have poured $25.3 million into the campaigns of candidates for Congress, with $15.2 million going to sitting U.S. House members and senators.

House Republicans have received, on average, $44,724 in contributions from the industry while House Democrats have received, on average, about $8,700. The top 31 House recipients of oil and gas cash this cycle are all Republicans. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) is the top House recipient of industry money, while Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) tops the list of Senate candidates.

Top 10 House Recipients of Oil and Gas Industry Cash

Outside Spending

Oil and gas interests have donated at least $12.3 million to third-party groups like super PACs, according to CRP.

However, this number seriously downplays the influence of the industry. The oil industry is able to funnel money to shadowy groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS, and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, which are spending tens of millions of dollars this year but do not have to disclose their donations. We can’t know for sure, but the existence of these 501(c) groups means that Big Oil has the ability to influence our elections behind a veil of secrecy.

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