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Ego, Lies and Videotape: Obama answers McCain on energy

Tovin Lapan

With political pundits dubbing the Nevada a "battleground" in the presidential race, those of us in the Silver State can expect to see lots of campaign ads from both Barack Obama and John McCain leading up to the November general election. In order to help you sift through the cheesy music, majestic images, and less than subtle innuendo the LV Weekly will break down various campaign ads from both candidates.

Today we look at Barack Obama’s response to John McCain’s ad, which accused Obama of supporting policies that have led to high gas prices:

"Pocket" –- by Obama for America

In the wake of McCain's "Pump" ad, claiming Obama is responsible for high gas prices, the Obama campaign released this ad associating McCain with big oil-buddy Bush, and of being in the pocket of oil companies.

With energy, Obama answers - from YouTube.com

AD Transcript:

“Announcer: Every time you fill your tank, the oil companies fill their pockets. Now Big Oil's filling John McCain's campaign with 2 million dollars in contributions.

Because instead of taxing their windfall profits to help drivers, McCain wants to give them another 4 billion in tax breaks. After one president in the pocket of big oil … We can't afford another.

Barack Obama … A windfall profits tax on big oil to give families a thousand dollar rebate. A president who'll stand up for you.

Obama: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.”

The TV spot, like most campaign ads, demonstrates both selective memory and exaggeration.

As of July 28, McCain had received $1,332,033 from persons in the oil and gas industry, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, not $2.1 million as the ad states. Campaign finance law does not allow direct political contributions by companies, but individuals and political action committees (PAC) associated with those companies can donate. So these numbers reflect both direct and company-sponsored PAC contributions.

But Obama has not turned down money from the same sources. Obama's total from oil and gas donors is $394,465, according to the CRP. Still far below the amount received by McCain, but if Obama wants to make this point, shouldn't he reject money from donors affiliated with oil companies?

As for the claim that McCain would give big oil companies an additional $4 billion in tax breaks, this is also a pseudo-accurate statement. McCain's proposal would cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent for all companies, not just big oil.

A March 27 report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund estimated that the McCain plan would be worth a total of $3.8 billion per year to the five largest U.S.-based oil companies. With profits for oil companies continuing to soar, by the time McCain were elected, the tax break could be worth even more.

Newsweek published an article in its July 26 issue that bolsters Obama's suggestion that he is, unlike his opponent, not "in the pocket" of big oil.

Chevron is fighting a lawsuit in Ecuador, where locals accuse Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001) of polluting the land and poisoning the population (causing, among other things, cancer and birth defects) while extracting oil. Chevron is using lobbyists to push the Bush administration to cut off trade benefits with Ecuador if the lawsuit goes forward.

The case has been going on for 5 years now, and one of the lawyers representing the Ecuadorian complainants went to an old college buddy, Obama, for help.

"Obama vetted the issue with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (who has long worked on Latin American human-rights issues), and in February 2006 the two wrote a letter to the then U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman urging the administration to permit the Ecuadorian peasants to have 'their day in court.'" Michael Isikoff wrote in Newsweek.

I just can't picture McCain, who is decidedly big oil's favored candidate after giving his stamp of approval for off-shore drilling, siding with the left-leaning Ecuadorian government over Chevron, not after they gave him $2 million … er $1.3 million to bolster his campaign.

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