Last time, it was “Drill, baby, drill.”
This time, it’s fund, baby, fund.
Energy companies such as Chevron Corp. and Duke Energy Corp. are helping to fund the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa, Florida.
Both corporations, along with Teco Energy Inc., the trade group for oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil Corp., and the association representing the national gas industry are among the donors providing an estimated $55 million to help pay for the quadrennial gathering.
The contributions enable companies to put their names in front of public officials attending the conventions, as well obtaining access to key lawmakers. Conventions are continuing to raise private funds even though taxpayers provide $17.7 million to each event. The conventions are also getting $50 million apiece from the government for security.
“Party conventions are basically a free-for-all for influence peddling,” said Lisa Gilbert, acting director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports stronger campaign finance laws. “There’s a clear and obvious loophole for corporations to influence numerous decision makers by funding these host committees.”
The amounts of the contributions haven’t been disclosed yet. The party will have to report them before Election Day.
The Democratic host committee in Charlotte, North Carolina, eschewed corporate donations, though a related entity, New American City Inc., is accepting money from such companies as Bank of America Corp., whose name is on the stadium where President Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech, and Duke Energy. The Charlotte committee set a goal of raising more than $36 million.
“Basically, these conventions provide an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the regions in which we operate,” said Tom Williams, a Duke spokesman. “That’s a way to attract new business to the region. When that happens, we benefit as well.”
Chevron gave $250,000 to the Tampa host committee, said Morgan Crinklaw, a spokesman. The money is to “help cover certain costs associated with the convention, including logistics and security, to provide a safe and successful event.”
The American Petroleum Institute, the Washington-based trade group for San Ramon, California-based Chevron and other oil companies, is listed as a contributor of the Tampa convention and plans to be active at both. API in January began vote4energy.org, touting how the oil and gas industry helps create jobs. API’s involvement helps make sure energy “remains on the top of voter’s minds,” said Reid Porter, a spokesman.
Energy industry support for the Republican convention comes as the party prepares to nominate two advocates of expanded oil and gas drilling, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. At the party’s 2008 convention, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s pledge to free the nation’s energy reserves prompted cheers of “drill, baby, drill.” The party’s 2012 presidential nominee also is touting energy independence as a key to reviving the economy.
“The Republican presidential ticket has certainly been more friendly toward expansion of oil and gas and a real all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Frank Maisano, an energy expert at the policy resolution group at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. “The president has been more inconsistent on his policies on energy issues because he’s trying to appease the environmental community at the same time he’s trying to appease people who are worried about high gas prices.”
Jonathan D. Salant
Bloomberg News money and politics reporter
202-624-1302 fax email@example.com