U.S. senators who voted this week to continue oil-and-gas company tax subsidies have received $1.48 million in campaign contributions from the O&G industry during the current two-year election cycle, while senators who voted to discontinue them have received only $400,075 in such donations.
The Senate on Thursday scuttled a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that would have slashed tax breaks for the five largest O&G companies, among other things. Overall, an estimated $24 billion in tax subsidies would have been killed.
Combining data at the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org with the results of the Senate vote, it is clear 13 of the 20 senators who have received the most money in O&G campaign contributions during the 2011-2012 election cycle effectively voted for the tax breaks and that six of them effectively voted against the tax subsidies. One -- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, with $192,900 in O&G donations -- did not vote.
Among the 13 senators who voted for the O&G tax breaks, 11 are Republicans and two are Democrats. They have collected $1.31 million in campaign contributions by the industry during the current election cycle. Appropriately, they are led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with $264,700.
Among the six senators who voted against the O&G tax subsidies, five are Democrats and one is Republican. They have collected $204,058 in campaign donations by the industry during the current election cycle. Ironically, they include bill sponsor Menendez, with $25,900.
The bill was debated for 30 hours before a procedural vote took place Thursday to move the bill forward. Sixty votes were needed, but the measure lost, 51-47.
Despite having President Barack Obama's explicit support, the bill was expected to fail.
There is no question that special-interest money in the political system helps shape legislative outcome, said Tyson Slocum, the director of the energy program for Public Citizen, an advocacy group that combats the influence lobbyists have in Washington.
There is a reason they do it [i.e., contribute to political candidates], Slocum noted. They don't do it out of charity. They do it because they expect a return on their investment.
Speaking of the vote on Thursday, Slocum said, It is difficult to understand why a certain number of senators would support tax deductions for oil companies at a time of record profits.
The vote came as the White House battles the perception is it not doing enough to lower high energy prices.
The national average price of gasoline was $3.92, up 32 cents from a year ago.
Obama proposed cutting 12 tax breaks for the O&G industry in his 2013 budget, eliminating $41 billion in such subsidies over 10 years.
N.B.: This article has been edited since its original publication.