Exxon Mobil announced a staggering $11.7 billion in second quarter profits today, the largest quarterly profits of any corporation in history, and the latest in a string of record-shattering profit announcements from the industry. Record-high oil prices may be squeezing Americans at the pump, but it's obviously good business for the oil companies. Less obvious, but just as harmful to consumers, is just what good business it is for the Republican Party.
Over the past few years, Republicans in Congress and the oil companies have assembled a mutually beneficial money machine. Big Oil pumps millions into the campaign coffers of Republican Senators. Those Senators shower the industry with billions in big tax breaks. Big Oil makes record profits, and in turn, sends millions more back into Republican campaigns. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Everyone wins except for average Americans who find themselves paying record high gas prices and wondering why Washington can't seem to do anything about it.
Since taking control of the Senate by a narrow one-vote margin in January of 2007, Democrats have tried repeatedly to break the oil industry's stranglehold on public policy and have repeatedly been stymied by Republican filibusters. For example, last June, Democrats tried to pass legislation rolling back billions in tax breaks President Bush and the Republican Congress had given to the oil companies, but couldn't find enough Republicans to join them to reach the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster. Then in December, Democrats tried again to repeal $13 billion in special oil and gas industry tax breaks to fund tax incentives for renewable energy and again were stopped by a Republican filibuster.
Republicans have been loudly bemoaning high gas prices as of late, but, not surprisingly, the only proposals they offer are the same ones backed by the oil companies. And then when they have a chance to actually lower the price of gas, they revert to their same old ways. Last Friday, Democrats in the Senate brought up a bill to lower gas prices by cracking down on oil speculators -- who experts say have needlessly driven up the price of oil -- and could only muster 50 votes, with nearly every Republican Senator voting to stop the bill from advancing.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a new website today, www.BoughtByBigOil.com, with more on how each Republican Senator running for re-election has voted to back the oil companies while handsomely profiting from their largesse. Republican Senators with long histories of backing Big Oil will be sending up plenty of smokescreens to disguise their records during the 95 days left between now and the election, but for voters who want to know where they really stand, the old axiom still applies: Follow the money.