ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

The Lobby.

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There is often talk about “the Lobby”, and those words have a certain resonance and conjure up an unpleasant mental picture for most of us, however, I am going to argue that the real lobby in the world is hardly ever discussed, in any meaningful way.

That is the extent of its power.

Clearly, we hear bits about it, in a broad sense, yet it is rarely analysed for its component parts, wider geopolitical influence and negative effect on human rights.

It spans the globe.

Nevertheless, much of the discussion relating to it comes across in a rather crude materialistic fashion, lacking subtlety and depth

There is seldom any piercing critique of the countries involved, the powerful players, the governments, the vested interests, the paid lobbyists, the various parliamentarians on the payroll, etc and above all, the oil companies.

Yes, that is the Lobby I am talking about, the oil lobby.

Dan Froomkin at HuffPost has a good article, which touches upon some of the issues:

“With so much public opposition, why do subsidies remain? You might as well ask why there is no carbon tax, or why there was no significant reform legislation passed after the BP oil spill.

The answer is that one of the many things the industry can do with its fat pocketbook is hire a veritable army of sharp lobbyists and back them up with big wads of cash in the form of campaign donations and spending. The end result is that the industry has a remarkable ability to get its way on Capitol Hill.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ website, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $1 billion on lobbying since 1998, including a jaw-dropping $147 million just last year.

For comparison’s sake, $147 million is about equivalent to the total budget of 100 congressional offices. That’s more than the $103 million spent in 2010 by the financial service industry, another potent lobbying force — but considerably less than the $240 million spent by the pharmaceutical industry. Among major industries, Opensecrets.org ranked Big Oil fifth in terms of lobbying dollars spent, behind only Big Pharma, electric utilities, business associations and insurance.

The oil and gas industry used its $147 million to employ 788 individual lobbyists in 2010 — some 500 (or almost two thirds) of whom, according to Opensecrets.org, are former federal employees who came through the revolving door particularly well versed in the ways of government.

All told, that’s well more than one oil and gas lobbyist per member of Congress out there on the Hill arming allies with talking points and briefing books, spinning the undecided and pressuring the opposition.

And there’s more of them every year. Consider the trendlines. As recently as 2004, the oil and gas industry spent about $52 million a year in lobbying; by 2009, that figure was up to $175 million — or a 300 percent increase in just five years.

The industry backs up its extraordinary lobbying effort with lavish spending on political campaigns. Candidates associated with oil and gas companies made about $15 million in direct campaign donations during the 2010 mid-term election cycle ($26 million during the 2008 presidential cycle).

The industry was also responsible for more than $10 million in donations through its political action committees, or PACs, in the 2010 cycle. “

Written by modernityblog

07/04/2011 at 02:00

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