The leader of the nation’s top oil and gas lobbying group didn’t mince words in condemning the actions of protesters who stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6, and he made clear Wednesday that last week’s events would influence the industry’s decisions about political giving moving forward.
Following the American Petroleum Institute (API) annual State of American Energy address, CEO Mike Sommers said it was “devastating” to see the U.S. Capitol under siege.
“This was a strike at the heart of American democracy, and everyone who was responsible for those actions should be held responsible,” Sommers said. “…Speaking for the entire oil and gas industry, I think all of us are concerned about the tone and tenor in American politics today, and we want to do everything we can to help change that tone.”
To that end, a number of energy companies have signaled plans to suspend and/or review political donations.
“What happened on Jan. 6 will be a factor in how we consider our political giving going forward,” Sommers said. Still, he was unable to provide any specifics on how recent events might alter the industry’s decisions on political donations.
“I’m not going to speculate at this time as to who would be in and who would be out,” Sommers said. “We want to make sure that our political participation reflects the values and principles of API.”
There were 147 Republicans, including eight senators and 139 House members, who voted to object to at least one state’s electoral count, even after the mob invaded the Capitol.
A compilation by Opensecrets.org estimated that of all the GOP legislators who supported the insurrection, the oil and gas sector donated almost $9.3 million total to them during the 2020 election cycle. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz alone received nearly $3.7 million from the oil and gas sector last year.
Electric utilities altogether donated another $3.9 million total to the GOP lawmakers during the 2020 election cycle.
Those donations now may be drying up for an unknown period of time. Energy operators reviewing their campaign contributions cover the spectrum, from oil and gas giants, utilities and petrochemicals firms.
Firms scrutinizing their campaign contributions include Berkshire Hathaway Energy, BP plc, Cheniere Energy Inc., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum Corp.
BP America told NGI that its PAC “will pause all contributions for six months. During this time the PAC will reevaluate its criteria for candidate support.”
ExxonMobil tweeted, “We continually review all PAC contributions. Previous contributions to a candidate do not indicate that the ExxonMobil PAC will contribute again in the future.”
Houston-based ConocoPhillips suspended all political contributions for at least six months and is reviewing its policies.
Occidental spokesperson Melissa Schoeb told NGI the Houston operator “is pausing to reevaluate our overall approach to political giving to ensure that we contribute to candidates who support our interests and align with our values.”
Petrochemicals giant Dow offered one of the most stinging assessments for legislators who wanted Congress rather than the American people to elect the president.
Dow “immediately” suspended all PAC contributions “to any member of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the presidential election. This suspension will remain in place for a period of one election cycle (two years for House members; up to six years for Senators), which specifically includes contributions to the candidate’s reelection committee and their affiliated PACs.
“Dow is committed to the principles of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. Our values — integrity, respect for people, and protecting our planet — are the foundation on which we stand and our values guide our political contributions.”
Also pausing donations were oil refiners Marathon Petroleum Corp. and Valero Energy Co.
“The violence that took place at the Capitol was appalling, and we condemn it unequivocally,” said a Marathon Petroleum spokesperson. A Valero spokesperson said the company would “continue to evaluate future contributions to assure they serve the best interest and values of our employees, shareholders, and the communities where we operate.”
General Electric (GE) said its PAC has suspended contributions to lawmakers who opposed the results “for the duration of the current session of Congress,” ending in January 2023.
The Business Roundtable, made up of a Who’s Who of CEOs, blasted the attempt to throw out the U.S. results. Energy sector chiefs serving on the roundtable represent American Electric Power, Bechtel Group Inc., BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow, Duke Energy Corp., Exelon Corp., ExxonMobil, Freeport McMoran Inc., GE, NextEra Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc., Phillips 66, Sempra Energy and Williams.
“After the unconscionable and tragic events we witnessed, it could not be clearer that it is time for the nation and lawmakers to unite around President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris,” the Roundtable stated. “It is only together that we can move forward to successfully confront our nation’s many challenges, chief among them ending the pandemic and ensuring a safe and rapid economic recovery.”
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