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The 5 Most Toxic Energy Companies and How They Control Our Politics

Energy companies continue to rake in massive profits. They use this wealth to leverage elections, write legislation, scale back regulations and escape accountability.

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How does BP manage to not just stay in business, but to thrive? It maintains its empire, consisting of refining 2.8 billion barrels of oil each day, as well as operating 16,000 gas stations across the U.S., and increasing its share of natural gas production, with help from friends in Congress. From 1989-2012 CRP reported that BP's contributions to federal candidates were over $6.3 million (70 percent going to Republicans), the fourth highest on our list. The company cranked up the lobbying efforts, too, spending $70 million on lobbying between 1998-2011, according to CRP, making it third highest on our list in that category. But BP stole the show with lobbyists hired. This year its total is 47, the highest of any company in the oil and gas sector. According to CRP, "Its lobbying focuses on tax incentives for oil and gas production, opposing mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions and following U.S. trade relations and policy in the Middle East."

As was revealed after the spill, BP has some serious revolving-door issues. As the AP noted last year, former Minerals Management Service senior official Jim Grant left his government position as chief of staff for the Gulf of Mexico region to become regulatory and advocacy manager at BP, one of the companies his former agency regulated. Reportedly, Sylvia Baca also moved from management positions at BP to a position in the federal government -- not once, but twice (under Clinton and Obama). As Project on Government Oversight investigator Mandy Smithberger told the AP, the revolving door between the Minerals Management Service and energy companies is a chronic issue. "To say that MMS has had a revolving door problem doesn't even begin to describe how profoundly this agency has entangled itself with industry," she said. "The revolving door has spun so readily in this case that the lines between the regulators and the regulated are now virtually nonexistent."

Not surprisingly, its top dogs in Congress were from oil and gas states. In 2010 here were its favorites:

  • Lisa Murkowski, I-Alaska, Senate; $10,400
  • Jeffrey M Landry, R-Louisiana, House; $4,800
  • John Culberson, R-Texas, House; $4,400
  • Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, Senate; $4,000

Murkowski, a ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, got Lincoln (also a darling of Koch) to jump ship from Democrats and side with Republicans in a effort to block the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, as Politico reported in 2010. Murkowski is not known for being a friend of the environment.  Mother Jones reported, "In Congress, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has emerged as the leading--and most canny--threat to the EPA." Although Murkowski admits that global warming is a real threat -- and is threatening her state, too -- she's done little to stop it. As Kate Sheppard wrote, "It's become increasingly difficult to distinguish her actions from those of her denialist colleagues."

2. Exxon Mobil

Oil giants Exxon and Mobil, which can trace their origins back to Rockefeller's Standard Oil, merged in 1999 and their partnership has made them one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world. Today Exxon Mobil produces 6 million barrels of oil a day, supplies 40,000 gas stations in 100 countries and is moving quickly into shale gas, as well.

All this means it has an awful lot of money to throw around (including paying CEO Rex Tillerson $21.5 million last year). According to CRP, from 1998 to 2012 the company dished out $12.3 million to federal candidates, the highest on our list, with 85 percent going to Republicans. Exxon Mobil wasn't shy about its lobbying efforts either, spending $174 million from 1998 to 2011 -- twice that of Chevron, the second highest on our list.

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