Thursday, June 10, 2010

Which Politicians Score More Dollars from the Oil Industry?

I recorded Lee Zurik's report on Fox News 8 in New Orleans last night about which politicians receive campaign contributions from oil companies. Zurik's pretty thorough, but his report didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.

These oil money "investigative reports" are popping up everywhere. For instance, Poynter just ran a piece called "Looking into Which Politicians Get the Most Money From BP, Other Oil Companies." It cites OpenSecrets, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, as its source of information. I was aware of its database as well. It's good that some analysts and news outlets aren't letting the misrepresentation of campaign contributions from oil data slide.

However, some bloggers and mainstream media outlets have been haphazardly reporting oil industry and BP contributions to politicians, and that's been a pet peeve of mine during this oil spill crisis. Some people repeat misinformation such as the accusation Sarah Palin made that Barack Obama is in deep with BP without considering sources and checking facts.

And I mean, come on, Sarah Palin as credible! The woman thinks she understands foreign policy because she can see Russia from her window, and she blames environmentalists for the oil spill.

But I guess we should expect that some Republicans would take advantage of this crisis and try to pull a few fast ones like calling out President Barack Obama on the money he's received from BP while ignoring their own people are flush in oil money by comparison. Furthermore, it's not surprising some fair-weather progressives have swallowed the misinformation as though the news didn't come from the Drill, Baby, Drill! camp.

The conservative talking point repeated, which also appears in the Fox News 8 piece online, is that Obama received more money from BP in election cycle 2008 than any other candidate, $71,051. Some folks take that soundbite and run, and even the Fox local news report has as its video graphic a picture of Obama with $71,051, a way of editorializing through presentation.

You have to read the whole article and watch the video to learn Republicans get more money overall and that Obama's money didn't come from the corporation itself but BP employees. However, Zurik also tells viewers that Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter's treasure chest includes a pool of black gold, $242,000. That's fat for a senator, and anyone who has been paying attention as this oil spill story has grown could tell Vitter appears to be in oil's pocket.

Responding to Palin's misrepresentation, OpenSecrets, the Center of Responsive Politics, which is the same organization that Palin used as a reference when she tried to smear Obama, had the following to say at its blog:
Of the $71,051 Obama raised from BP-related sources, all of it came from individual employees, as Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees. During the entire 2008 election cycle, the company's PAC and employees favored Republicans in their giving at a ratio of about 3-1. And the oil and gas industry as a whole gave Palin and her running mate John McCain $2.4 million -- more than double the $901,000 Obama collected from the industry overall. BP itself is currently ranked as #106 on the Center's "Heavy Hitter" list of companies and organizations that spend the most on federal campaign contributions.
Writing at Time on the game, "BP And Obama: Playing Internet Gotcha With Campaign Finance Numbers," Mark Scherer analyzes a Politico story that went wild with the Obama-BP story, and he says:
It is true that according to this online database (OpenSecrets again) Obama received slightly more money from BP's PAC and employees since 1990 than anyone else. But there is a major a reason for that, which the story fails to mention: People who run for President raise much more money, and received much more money from BP interests--and just about every other interest. ...
*MediaMatters said in May that Obama received no PAC money from BP during his run for the presidency.

Scherer continues, discussing how the numbers are skewed and mispresented, and then says:
That's one way of slicing the numbers. Another would be to say that in the last 20 years, BP has given 71 percent of its money to Republicans, and 29 percent to Democrats.
After many of my posts about the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, I link to "Flashback: Jindal Tells How He Grew Up with Oil Industry and that Threat to Environment is Balanced in Louisiana." MSM has been awfully cushy with the governor lately, ignoring his past.

In addition, I share info from the WSJ fact check on Sarah Palin misrepresentations. The Wall Street Journal reports, "According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans receive far more campaign money from the oil and gas industry than do Democrats.." I do this because I know people don't pay attention and check facts.

In my home state, Louisiana, almost everybody's in bed with oil, Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Yes, Democratic Senators Melancon and Landrieu, we see you. But nationally, Republicans are the darlings of the oil industry.

So, if Republicans want to assert that politicians should be pristine in taking money from oil corporations, then they should start with their own people. I'll gladly get behind any push to stop all politicians from accepting oil donations.

In the interest of the fair relay of information, BP's contribution to the Obama campaign represents less than .0001 % of his the total he collected of nearly $750 million. In terms of influence, that's approaching infinitesimal.

The percentage he collected from the oil and gas industry in general during his presidential campaign represents slightly more than than .001 %. Compare that to John McCain receiving $2.4 million from oil and gas, more than double the amount Obama received, but collecting less than half as much in campaign contributions overall. If money buys access, then who was giving more access to oil in terms of ratios?

Let's remember that Obama broke the mold in collecting money, a substantial portion of it from ordinary people giving less than $200 each. Nevertheless, I wish none of the candidates took money from large corporations, Obama included, and if we want to get on this president's case for approving more offshore drilling earlier this year, fine. But any progressive jumping on the Obama-BP conspiracy train is drinking conservative fringe spiked punch. They need to quit.

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