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Chevron banks on a profitable political agenda

With 43 lobbyists and a federal influence-peddling budget of at least $35 million this past election cycle, Chevron must have an ambitious agenda for the politicians in "True Cost of Chevron"Washington, DC. The company just paid $4.3 billion to acquire Atlas Energy and its extensive holdings in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale so first and foremost on the company’s agenda will be fighting any efforts to have the federal government regulate hydraulic fracturing. Second, Chevron produced 260,000 barrels of oil and natural gas per day from the Gulf of Mexico, so preventing Congress from reforming offshore drilling rules in the wake of the BP disaster will be key. Third, Chevron will join forces with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to demonize pending Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and continue opposing efforts for the U.S. to lead the way in battling climate change. Fourth, look to Chevron to help lead the chant of “Drill Baby Drill!” as the company seeks to exploit the Presidential race to open new areas to oil and natural gas drilling. Fifth, expect the company to take evasive action against efforts to revoke billions of dollars in oil company tax breaks and royalty relief. Finally, Chevron will probably seek to protect investments overseas from meddlesome foreign government actions on prioritizing the environment and workers’ rights by getting the U.S. to enact favorable trade agreements.

Chevron’s lobbyists are a Who’s Who of former government officials. DC’s rule of thumb: corporations ensure better access to lawmakers when they put their former colleagues from government on their payroll.

Chevron pays the Breaux Lott Leadership Group of the law firm Patton Boggs $135,000 every three months to lobby members of Congress. That means former Senators John Breaux and Trent Lott hobnob with their Senate contemporaries, and ask whatever Chevron tells them to ask for. Chevron has lobbyist Richard Hohlt on retainer, close friend of Karl Rove, and the kingmaker of a monthly gathering of GOP leaders inside DC called the “Off the Record Club.” Chevron pays the law firm Akin Gump $90,000 every three months to take advantage of the firm’s Democratic stars, including Al From, and former top staffers to Senator Max Baucus and Rahm Emanuel.

Chevron hires the bipartisan Dow Lohnes Government Strategies for $80,000 every quarter, with Stephen Sayle (former Counsel to Representative Joe Barton) and Rick Kessler (former chief of staff to Representative John Dingell) the revolving door highlights. The lobbying firm TwinLogic Strategies is retained at a price of $40,000 every three months to take advantage of two former senior staff members for Representative Bob Goodlatte and former Representative Rich Boucher. Timothy J. Keeler— Chief of Staff in the office of U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush and now a lobbyist with the law firm Mayer Brown—is paid by Chevron to work on trade agreements. The lobbying firm Ogilvy Government Relations features GOP heavyweight Wayne Berman, former Tom DeLay staffer Drew Maloney, and former Dick Gephardt staffer Moses Mercado.

Chevron was the fourth largest federal campaign contributor from the oil and gas sector during 2009-10, giving 82% of its nearly $940,000 in contributions to Republican candidates.

In addition to direct contributions to politicians, Chevron funds groups empowered by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see www.democracyisforpeople.org) to spend unlimited amounts of money on federal elections. In 2010, Chevron gave $500,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the fight to demonize pending EPA rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So why does Chevron bother spending this kind of money on the political system? Because, dollar for dollar, nothing provides a better financial return than investing in politicians. With environmentalists pushing to hold oil companies accountable for their pollution, corporations like Chevron would be forced to spend millions of dollars to make their oil and natural gas drilling operations and oil refineries cleaner and safer. Sure, doing so would improve the standard of living for millions of Americans and help ensure we all have access to cleaner air and water—but Chevron’s political activities clearly show the company’s priority is profit—not saving the planet.

Read the entire True Cost of Chevron report where this essay is featured.

Tyson Slocum is the director of Public Citizen’s energy program. You can follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum.