Drill, Mr. President, Drill – For Campaign Contributions

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With oil pump jacks as a backdrop, President Barack Obama speaks at an oil and gas field on federal lands, March 21, 2012, in Maljamar, NM. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

You might think that with various environmental regulations, the push for alternative forms of power, the fight over the Keystone pipeline and especially White House calls for an end to Big Oil tax subsidies, trying to coax campaign cash from the energy and natural resources industry would be a dry well for Barack Obama.

In fact, according to the website Politico, “Energy industry bigwigs have spent the past three-plus years talking trash about President Barack Obama’s policies, but that’s not stopping their executives and employees from filling his campaign war chest.”

“Workers from some of the country’s largest oil, gas and electric utility companies — including ExxonMobil, BP and Exelon — have given $772,000 to Obama’s campaign through mid-April, according to donation data for this election cycle compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.”

That’s less than half of what the sector has given to Mitt Romney and doesn’t include industry contributions from the Koch Brothers and others to anti-Obama super PACs, but it’s still impressive. Among the contributors are Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, co-chairman of the Democratic National Convention Committee, and Exxon attorney Gregory Kenney, who told Politico, “[Obama]’s been fine. He left us to compete in the free-enterprise system. I don’t take judgment.”

“Energy-minded donors whom POLITICO spoke with gave differing reasons for supporting Obama. Several said they are die-hard Democrats who welcome his first-term emphasis on clean energy and green jobs. Others cited his embrace of the Republicans’ ‘all of the above’ energy message, saying it helped soothe their concerns that his administration would be an excessive regulator if elected for another four years.”

In National Journal, Amy Harder writes, “The White House and the oil and natural-gas industry are getting along better than they have at any time under President Obama’s watch,” and points to the easing of several recent EPA draft proposals and regulations.”

“’My assessment of the past versus the present is they’re starting to better understand what the business community is talking about,’ said one lobbyist for a major oil company, who spoke candidly only on the condition of anonymity. ‘They seem to be really trying to make an effort to stop things before they become explosive, and a lot of that seems to be coming from [White House energy and environment aide] Heather Zichal and the Office of Management and Budget.’”

Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas points to his lapel pin during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Sen John Cornyn, R-Texas points to his lapel pin during a news conference on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Others think the White House is simply pandering to the energy industry in an election year when the president thinks he’ll need every campaign penny he can get. A recent collaboration between oil companies and the administration on fracking regulations drew an especially indignant reaction from David Banks, a senior energy aide to Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma. In an 800-word email to two dozen lobbyists, obtained by National Journal Daily, Banks wrote, “Moving forward, we — your partners — would kindly ask for better coordination and communication from you to prevent the Obama administration from pulling similar stunts in the future.”

Amy Handler noted:

“The reference in the email to industry and Republicans being ‘partners’ made some of the lobbyists who read it cringe, because it implies that the industry must always be aligned with congressional Republicans. That ignores the reality that major corporations, which are responsible to their investors, must sometimes work with the president when it suits their business interests, said Scott Segal, a lobbyist with Bracewell & Giuliani who received the Banks email.”

At a “Vote 4 Energy” event in Washington on Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s primary lobbying group, released a wish list of priorities for consideration by the Republican and Democratic Party platform committees. They include recommendations to “dramatically expand offshore leasing to include the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts; streamline the rulemaking process for energy regulations; and immediately approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.”

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