Monday, March 31, 2008

Presidential Campaign Oil Wrestling

Last week, the Obama campaign released a new TV spot for the Pennsylvania market slamming the oil companies' high prices and big profits. In the ad he touts his policy prescription: a windfall profits tax.

The Clinton campaign predictably fired back with charges that Obama "did so" take plenty of money from the oil industry. You can see a quick sound bite of Hillary bashing Obama's energy vote bill here.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign was quick to send out an e-mail accusing Mr. Obama of making false statements in his ad, saying he has received more than $160,000 from the oil and gas companies. Phil Singer, deputy communications director for Mrs. Clinton, put out this statement: "It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is using false advertising to explain why he can be trusted to do something about energy prices. Senator Obama says he doesn't take campaign contributions from oil companies, but the reality is that Exxon Mobil, Shell and others are among his donors. I wonder if they'll fix the ad."
Obama's team quickly fired back with more of the "he said, she said":
Mr. Singer shouldn't hold his breath. Bill Burton, press secretary for the Obama campaign, reaffirmed the ad's message, saying "Senator Obama is the only candidate in the race who doesn't accept campaign contributions from special interests PACs and Washington lobbyists, and that includes oil companies and oil lobbyists." "The energy bill that Senator Clinton has already been criticized for misrepresenting -- one that Clinton supporters Representatives Murtha and Kanjorski also backed -- actually raised taxes on oil companies and made the largest investment in renewable energy in our nation's history," said Mr. Burton in a statement. "Instead of continuing with the negative and misleading tactics that voters everywhere are rejecting, Senator Clinton should get behind the Obama plan to ease the burden of rising gas prices on working families."
IMO, Obama's windfall profits tax idea is the definition of empty pandering. It didn't work for Jimmy Carter and there's no reason to believe it will work now. Sadly, all this finger pointing is ignoring a very obvious way to get more money out of the oil companies, money that they already owe the federal government. As I've been posting in this series, the Department of Interior has failed to collect more than $10 billion in revenues for petroleum removed from public lands. When will one of the candidates step up and promise to collect this outstanding debt?

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