Oil companies in control in Washington | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Oil companies in control in Washington

Jerome Waldie

As I began researching this column exploring the explosive price of gasoline, my first return from Googling the words, “President Bush Oil Company Contributions,” was 5.7 million possible entries. That probably should have been the end of my research. If President Bush was the recipient of enough oil lobbyists’ monetary contributions to merit 5.7 million entries in a Google research, he would be considered “owned” by the oil companies in the political parlance of our time.

The research produced gems such as “oil runs through every sinew and vein of the Bush administration.” As one might expect, the Democratic National Committee put it even more bluntly. “Republicans (in Congress) and President Bush are in oil companies’ pockets.”

These conclusions, harsh as they may be, seem warranted when one examines the political contributions of the oil companies. Since 2000, the year President Bush was first elected, the Republican Party has been the recipient of the startling sum of $67 million of oil company contributions. Tom DeLay, then Majority Leader, now awaiting prosecution for campaign fund violations, alone, accepted over $800,000 from the oil lobbyists. And Joe Barton, the Republican Chair of the House Energy Committee, before whom must come all bills pertaining to the oil industry, has been the grateful recipient of $1.84 million, the most contributed to any member of Congress by any industry.

The political contributions to these three Texans, President Bush, DeLay and Barton, were given to protect the interest of the oil companies from any undue and harmful restrictions on their activities such as their seemingly out-of-control gasoline pricing policies.

But cash infusions by oil company lobbyists into Republican campaigns is not the only reason oil companies have not been prevented from gouging the American gas pump patron. The Bush Administration teems with former oilmen who are programmed to oppose policies designed to reign in the excesses of their former employees. The president and the vice president both had pre-election careers as oilmen. Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on the board of directors of the largest oil company of all, Exxon-Mobil, before joining Mr. Bush in Washington, D.C. And an unbelievable 41 members of his administration have been financially involved with oil companies before joining the president.

Ralph Nader caustically put it, “The Bush people and the oil moguls do agree with one another in part because they are one another.” Or as the Sierra Club complains, the government under Mr. Bush seems to be “a government of the oil companies, by the oil companies and for the oil companies.”

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Gasoline prices at the pump have doubled, from under $1.30 a gallon to nearly $3 a gallon since Mr. Bush took office. That means whenever you pump 10 gallons of gas into your tank, today, you are paying around $15 more than you did before Mr. Bush became president. Though there has been a slight recent decline in the price of gas, it still ranges in the $3 a gallon area with predictions of greater increases yet to come this winter.

But gasoline pump prices are not the only things going sky high these days. Profits to the oil companies have climbed to historical highs, also. A few sickening examples: This past week, Exxon Mobil posted one quarter earnings of $92 billion – yes, billions of dollars! That, according to news reports, was “more than any company has ever earned in a single quarter” in America’s history. Those staggering profits were closely matched by Shell and BP.

The president responded to the anger of Americans across the country by mumbling something about increasing production and thereby supply and thus lowering prices. Yeah, sure, Mr. President, the oil companies are interested in increasing supply so as to reduce demand and their exorbitant profits. Duh.

Even the oil companies’ faithful Republican allies in Congress expressed concern with the reaction of the public. They called for congressional investigations to see what is going on here. The Democrats, not being financed by the oil companies, of course, were less sensitive to the oil companies’ discomfort. They strongly condemned the oil moguls for their unconscionable exploitation of American consumers and demanded congressional action leading to an excess profits tax on the oil industry.

Don’t hold your breath that the anger of the American public over the oil companies’ greed will be responded to by congress. Yes, you will hear some speeches of outrage from congressmen of both parties, but you won’t see any real action, such as an excess profits tax, seeking to impose restraint on the out-of-control oil companies.

The old adage, “follow the money” will assure that ain’t going to happen. Unless, in 2006, the rascals with the oil company money sitting in Congress are thrown out of office.

– Jerome R. Waldie is a former U.S. Congressman and a Placerville resident.