Monday, October 24, 2005

A sordid tale of oil and money?

Dear friends,

You might be asking yourselves just why a Senate committee is planning to move forward this Wednesday on what bill sponsors are calling the “Gas PRICE” act.

The name is a curiosity, since there’s no evidence it will lower gas prices. (Maybe that – plus that fact that it would create new loopholes in the Clean Air Act – is why some wags have re-named it the “GASP” (Gouge Americans Stuck at the Pump) Act.

It is aimed at helping oil companies, which are poised this week to announce almost-obscene profits. Perhaps this legislation is partly timed to deflect attention from those profit announcements?

Speaking of money, surely this action by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has nothing to do with campaign contributions!

Still, it is interesting to see how money oil money has flowed to bill (S. 1772) sponsors in the recent past. Bill sponsors have raked in an average of about $150,000 each from oil and gas companies. Note, below, that other money is also streaming in from interested parties.

The figures below are from the Center for Responsive Politics, based on filings with the Federal Election Commission.

“GASP” Sponsor Oil & Gas Campaign Contributions*

James Inhofe (R-OK) $261,008
Kit Bond (R-MO) $125,650
George Voinovich (R-OH) $116,000
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) $204,163
John Thune (R-SD) $263,916
Jim DeMint (R-SC) $91,700
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) $71,224

[all of the above are members of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee]

Non-committee members who are co-sponsoring S. 1772:

Wayne Allard (R-CO) $174,100
Larry Craig (R-ID) $95,950
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) $163,679
Rick Santorum (R-PA) $79,150

Oil & Gas industry contributions to bill sponsors: $1,646,540

Because it is so hard to track the flow of money in DC, these figures undoubtedly understate the total money inflow from interested parties to bill sponsors.

For example, the gas-station lobby (The Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America or SIGMA) gave $5,000 earlier this year to Senator Inhofe. But Inhofe also received a separate contribution from SIGMA’s lobbying firm – Collier Shannon Scott. The latter is not included among the total listed above. The gas-station lobby is promoting the legislation as a way to reduce the number of cleaner fuels.

It’s perhaps also interesting to note that several senators – notably Voinovich and Bond – went out of their way to praise the National Mining Association and a portion of the bill that would promote conversion of coal into liquid fuel. (The mining industry had its own press release out on this: )

No doubt it’s a sheer coincidence that Voinovich and Bond are both regular recipients of cash from the mining association’s political action committee.

Other Republican members of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Three Republican members of the panel, David Vitter (R-LA), John Warner (R-VA) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) have not co-sponsored the legislation. (Nor has any committee Democrat or Independent James Jeffords.)

David Vitter (R-LA) $264,246
John Warner (R-VA) $57,523
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) ? (a negligible amount, if any)

Even though Warner seemed cranky at last week’s hearing, you might want to bet that he and Vitter will vote for the measure this week. Maybe even bet $371, 769 – their combined take from oil and gas companies.

* The figures are based on the current (2001-2006) Senate fund-raising cycle. The total for Dole reflects her last campaign (through 2002).


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