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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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ALEC is a darling of the oil and gas companies, with Chevron, BP, Koch and Exxon Mobil all taking part. Exxon Mobil's government affairs manager Randy Smith serves on ALEC's "private enterprise" board (and he also sits on Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission).

Along with its efforts at climate denialism, which were totalled at $16 million in 2007, Exxon Mobil also has some ugly stains on its resume.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 dumped 11 million gallons of crude into Alaska's beautiful Prince William Sound. Environment News Service  reports that the disaster affected 10,000 square miles of coastline, as well as "fouling a national forest, two national parks, two national wildlife refuges, five state parks, four state critical habitat areas, one state game sanctuary, and many ancestral lands for Alaska natives."

But that's not all. Reuters reported in 2009 that Exxon Mobil was found to have polluted New York City's groundwater with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MBTE), a gasoline additive: "The city contended Exxon knew that gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether would contaminate ground water if it leaked from the underground storage tanks at its retail stations." The tab for damages came to $105 million.

On the human rights front, ExxonMobil has faced long-standing claims that it hired members of the Indonesian military to protect the company's facilities in the country. Indonesians accuse the company of murder, rape and destruction.

1. Chevron

The top spot on our list for the worst energy company this year goes to Chevron. The company has indeed moved quite a large amount of cash through Washington and its business practices have resulted in an incredible loss of life. Much of it just happened out of the country, so many in the U.S. may have missed Chevron's gross abuses.

In relation to other energy companies, Chevron is big -- it's the second largest U.S. oil company and the third largest U.S. corporation overall. Its mammoth size is the result of gobbling up a lot of other companies along the way. It started off as Pacific Coast Oil Company and then became Standard Oil and then Chevron when it swallowed up Gulf Oil in 1984. In 2001 Chevron merged with Texaco, and then in 2005 acquired Unocal.

As the price of oil climbs, Chevron continues to make a killing. Antonia Juhasz, writing in " The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report," found that the company's 2010 profits of $19 billion were nearly double 2009 profits and its revenue shot up to $200 billion. As most Americans struggle through the economic downturn, Chevron's CEO John Watson took home a cool $16.3 million in 2010 -- even as Juhasz writes, "Chevron continued to shrink its number of employees and holdings."

The company has tried to change its oil and gas image with aggressive ad campaigns about its investments in renewable energy, but in truth, 95 percent of its revenue still comes from oil and gas. That might explain why, according to  Tyson Slocum, Chevron doled out $500,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "which is leading the fight to demonize pending EPA rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Chevron's also trying to pad its profits by contributing largely to politicians. From 1989-2012 CRP reported that Chevron's contributions to federal candidates were over $11.9 billion -- the third highest on our list (although nearly tied for second with Koch), with 75 percent going to Republicans.

CRP has calculated that Chevron spent over $779,000 in 2010 (with only $152,480 going to Democrats). These were some of its top dogs:

 
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