Obama: Oil and gas corporations are not people

Last night on CNN, President Obama responded to Mitt Romney’s position that “corporations are people,” and singled out oil and gas corporations – identifying them as companies and not people who deserve government handouts.

“Well, if you tell me that corporations are vital to American life, that the free-enterprise system has been the greatest wealth creator that we’ve ever seen, that their corporate CEOs and folks who are working in our large companies that are creating incredible products and services and that is all to the benefit of the United States of America, that I absolutely agree with,” the president said.

“If, on the other hand, you tell me that every corporate tax break that’s out there is somehow good for ordinary Americans, that we have a tax code that’s fair, that asking oil and gas companies, for example, not to get special exemptions that other folks don’t get, and that if we’re closing those tax loopholes somehow that that is going to hurt America, then that I disagree with. “

These are the same loopholes that Big Oil has been lobbying to protect. The industry has done a good job of influencing Congress to preserve the $15 billion in corporate welfare they get while programs that help everyday Americans, such as Medicare, are starving for government support.

Even as a deficit spending crisis loomed over the nation, closing tax loopholes and ending subsidies to Big Oil were a non-starter for Congress. As we previously reported, at the height of the deficit ceiling debate – when asked, Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) would not vote down government handouts to oil and gas. Instead, he called for mass overhaul of the United States tax code.

The market has demonstrated it is time for subsidies to end. Contrary to its claims of needing corporate welfare, Big Oil has enough cash to invest heavily in the newly formed Super Committee. According to OpenSecrets, the six Republicans on the committee have collected a total of $1,029,024 in oil and gas contributions in the 2010 and 2012 cycles. The six Democrats have taken in $308,950 in oil and gas money.

UPDATED: Big Oil announces skyrocketing profits, keeps politicians on the dole for big tax breaks

Denver, CO – This week, as the top five oil companies announce their first quarter profits, the Checks and Balances Project conducted an analysis of the money oil and gas corporations spent in 2010 on campaign contributions and Congressional lobbyists. The numbers tell the story that oil companies’ armies of lobbyists and contributing power give them a louder voice than American families. For example, the House of Representatives voted in March to protect Big Oil’s multi-billion dollar tax breaks and government subsidies, in spite of polling that shows Americans want them eliminated.

Company[1]

 2010 Lobbying Expenditures

2010 Political Contributions (Dem)

2010 Political Contributions (GOP)

Exxon Mobil

 $12,450,000

 $109,500

 $928,950

Chevron

 $12,890,000

 $122,000

 $473,000

Shell

 $10,370,000

N/A

N/A

BP

 $7,335,000

$31,500

$35,000

ConocoPhillips

 $19,626,382

 $90,000

 $299,000

Total

 $62,671,382

 $321,500

 $1,700,950

According to Public Campaign, the Political Action Committees for BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil donated $285,500 to elected officials and political parties in the first quarter of 2011.

“These profit reports show Big Oil is making big bucks from high gas prices at the pump,” said Checks and Balances Deputy Director Matt Garrington. “Big Oil spent $63 million lobbying Congress and $2 million in campaign contributions last year so politicians would hand out $4 billion every year in taxpayer-funded subsidies.”

Public pressure is starting to sway GOP members of Congress. Speaker John Boehner, Denny Rehberg, Sam Graves, Mick Mulvaney, and Paul Ryan are all on record, stating the need to end oil and gas subsidies.

On the other hand, oil and gas money recipients, including Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA-04) and Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO-05), recently voted against ending  “royalty relief” for offshore drilling companies. Hastings and Lamborn are also leading the charge to open up even more Western lands drilling despite the fact that Big Oil and Gas has failed to develop 57 percent of public lands leased for drilling.

“If Congress is serious about addressing high gas prices, throwing taxpayer money and opening up public lands to drilling speculation won’t work,” said Garrington.

The US Department of Energy reports $3.88 is the average price of a gallon of gas. This week, the “Big Five” oil companies – Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and BP – reported an average 35.6% increase in profits over first quarter 2010.

Company

 Q1 2010 Profits

 Q1 2011 Profits

Increase in Profits

Exxon Mobil

 $6,300,000,000

 $10,700,000,000

69.8%

Shell

 $4,800,000,000

 $6,300,000,000

31.3%

BP

 $5,600,000,000

 $5,480,000,000

-2.1%

ConocoPhillips

 $2,100,000,000

 $3,000,000,000

42.9%

Chevron

$4,550,000,000

 $6,200,000,000

36.3%

Total

$23,350,000,000

$31,680,000,000

35.6%