As Obama calls for end to oil company tax breaks, new report links surging profits to lobbying efforts

By David O. Williams
Real AspenMay 3, 2011
With Congress and the White House increasingly railing against record oil company profits, a study late last week linked those windfalls to millions spent on lobbying and direct campaign contributions.

The nonprofit Checks and Balances Project last week released an analysis of the skyrocketing profits of the nation's top five oil and gas companies in the wake of near-record gas prices and compared those profits to lobbying expenditures and political contributions in 2010.

ExxonMobil reported first quarter 2011 profits of $10.7 billion compared to $6.3 billion in 2010, a 69.8-percent increase. The nation's largest oil and gas company spent $12.45 million on lobbying in 2010 and made $928,959 in political contributions to Republicans and $109,500 to Democrats.

Chevron, which reported Q1 profits of $6.2 billion in 2011 compared to $4.55 billion in 2010, spent more on lobbying in 2010 ($12.89 million) but less on political contributions ($473,000 to Republicans and $122,000 to Democrats).

While citing a growing number of Republicans on the record backing an end to oil and gas subsidies – including House Speaker John Boehner – Checks and Balances points out key Republican committee members continue to block such efforts, including House Natural Resources Committee subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn of Colorado.

“These profit reports show big oil is making big bucks from high gas prices at the pump,” Denver-based Checks and Balances Deputy Director Matt Garrington said in a release. “Big oil spent $63 million lobbying Congress and $2 million in campaign contributions last year so politicians would hand out $4 billion every year in taxpayer-funded subsidies.”

Lamborn last month voted against ending royalty relief for offshore drilling companies and has been hammering on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for policies limiting drilling on federal lands. Salazar fired back that oil and gas companies aren't coming close to utilizing all the leases they currently hold on public lands around the nation.

In his national radio address on Saturday, President Barack Obama said he wants Congress to end $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, according to the Associated Press.

"These tax giveaways aren't right," Obama said. "They aren't smart. And we need to end them. An investment in clean energy today is an investment in a better tomorrow, and I think that's an investment worth making."

AP reported that "drivers in 22 states are paying more than the national average of $3.91 per gallon. In Alaska, California and Connecticut, it's $4.20 or more," slowing economic growth. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will weigh Obama's proposal as early as this week.

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