Political Correction

Big Oil Gave Filibustering Senators 18 Million Reasons To Block Repeal Of Subsidies

May 18, 2011 10:26 am ET - by Alan Pyke

A Democratic bill to repeal billions of dollars in subsidies to the world's biggest oil companies died last night in the Senate, filibustered by 45 Republicans and three Democrats. At first glance that is a defeat for progressives — the bill was good policy that would reduce the deficit without increasing gas prices for consumers, and it's a shame it won't get a real vote.

But as the Public Campaign Action Fund points out, the vote shines a spotlight on Big Oil's outsized influence on Capitol Hill: Senators who voted to block consideration of the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act have taken nearly $18 million from the oil and gas industry in their careers — five times more money than supporters of the bill have gotten from such businesses.

U.S. Senators that blocked a vote on legislation to end taxpayer subsidies to oil companies have received five times more in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests than those who voted to begin debate, according to Oil Change International and Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The 48 Senators that voted against cloture today on S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, have received $370,664, on average, in campaign contributions from the employees and political action committees (PACs) of oil and gas companies during their time in Congress, while those who voted to consider the legislation received just $72,145, on average. [...]

Overall, those opposed to the legislation have received $17,791,875 in campaign cash from oil and gas interests over the years, while those who voted in favor received $3,751,551. In addition, oil and gas companies spent $39.5 million on 633 lobbyists in the first quarter of 2011.

Politicians and corporations always deny that campaign contributions buy influence — what else would they say? — but last night's vote in the Senate is the clearest illustration in a long time of the ways that campaign money moves our government to stand up for corporate interests.

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