Oil and Gas Industry Gives Big to Members of Congress

The 10 lawmakers who get the most from the industry.

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The oil and gas industry has contributed more than $7.5 million to members of the 111th Congress thus far in the 2010 election cycle. That makes the industry the 15th most generous out of 80 tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group which compiles campaign finance data. The confluence of the impending November elections and the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico have brought the influence of oil and gas campaign contributions into the spotlight. The industry's $7,504,019 in contributions to members of the 111th Congress puts it behind such big industries as lawyers and law firms (No. 1), securities and investment (No. 4), and pharmaceuticals and health products (No. 9). (Corporations and labor unions are legally barred from contributing to federal candidates, so these figures reflect contributions from industry employees, their families, and political action committees.) [See who gets the most from the oil and gas industry.]

Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln tops the list of recipients of oil money for this election cycle with $286,400, followed by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, with $242,600. Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren leads House members, with $139,700 in contributions from the oil and gas industry. Here are the top 10 recipients of oil money:

Congressperson Party Chamber State Amount. Received from Oil and Gas Industry

Congressperson Party Chamber State Amount Received From Oil and Gas Industry
Blanche Lincoln D Senate Arkansas $286,400
David Vitter R Senate Louisiana $242,600
Lisa Murkowski R Senate Alaska $209,826
Dan Boren D House Oklahoma $139,700
Robert Bennett R Senate Utah $138,400
Roy Blunt R House Missouri $133,100
John Cornyn R Senate Texas $130,525
Arlen Specter D Senate Pennsylvania $130,400
Chet Edwards D House Texas $123,630
Mike Conaway R House Texas $116,950


Many factors can influence why a politician receives money from an industry, says Center spokesman Dave Levinthal. Seniority, committee memberships, and the oil and gas industry's economic prominence in a particular state can all play major roles in drawing campaign funds from the industry. "Many of the people on this list have a confluence of two or three of those factors going in their favor, which means that they have a pretty good chance of raising six-figure sums from the oil and gas industry," says Levinthal. [See a slide show of the oil industry's favorite lawmakers.]

Of the top 10 congressional recipients of oil and gas contributions, seven are members of committees that deal with the environment, energy, or natural resources—issues that most affect the oil and gas industry. For example, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which Lincoln and Republican Sen. Robert Bennett also belong. Likewise, Roy Blunt is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Boren is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Vitter and Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter both serve on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Also, not surprisingly, eight of these top 10 recipients also come from states closely connected with the oil and gas industry. Texas, Alaska, Louisiana, and Utah are significant crude oil producers. Pennsylvania is the top petroleum-refining state in the Northeast. Oklahoma is a major natural gas producer, the fifth most prolific state in terms of crude oil production, and home to the city of Cushing, a major domestic crude oil trading hub.

Though Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and BP didn't donate to a member directly, contributions from people associated with the companies make them the top-contributing oil companies.

Lincoln, the biggest recipient of oil and gas dollars, received $17,500 from people associated with those three oil contributors this election cycle, including $4,000 from BP. This makes her the second-leading congressional recipient of money from contributors affiliated with BP. [See where Lincoln's campaign cash comes from.]

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the recipient of $37,500 from people associated with the top three oil companies, is also the top congressional recipient of money from contributors associated with BP, with $7,000. [See where else Murkowski's campaign cash comes from.]

On the whole, contributors from the oil and gas industry have given 62 percent of their dollars this election cycle to Republicans. Those associated with Exxon Mobil have given 85 percent of their $515,264 in contributions to Republicans. Chevron is the next most generous, with 81 percent of its $440,879 in political contributions to members of the GOP. Those affiliated with BP have also given a majority of their contributions to Republicans, but the breakdown is not so extreme, and the total is far smaller: only 56 percent of BP's $112,591 have gone to Republicans.

Overall, the spread of oil and gas contributions in politics is broad yet uneven. The industry has contributed to 424 of the 535 current members of Congress, but the amount of contributions varies greatly. While the average oil and gas contribution to members of Congress is over $17,800, the median contribution is only $6,375. This indicates that, while many members receive only small amounts, a small number receive much larger sums.