Big Oil Outspends Obama Ten to One on Energy Ads

An analysis by the Center for American Progress shows that pro-oil groups bashing the Obama administration's energy policies dominate spending on energy-related campaign ads.

| Mon Apr. 16, 2012 4:04 PM EDT

Energy issues are shaping up to be a major focus of this year's presidential election, and from the looks of it, oil, gas, and coal interests are willing to do whatever it takes to shape the debate to their liking: A new analysis by the Center for American Progress finds that groups supported by those industries' money have already spent a whopping $16.75 million on energy-related ads in 2012. How does that compare with the Obama campaign and its backers? So far, they've spent just a tenth of that amount—$1.67 million—defending the administration's energy record. Ouch.

Here's a breakdown of some of the biggest anti-Obama spenders and the ads they financed:

  • Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-linked PAC, has spent $2.85 million since January on ads, including $1.7 million on ads criticizing Obama's energy policies. This one that proclaims "No matter how Obama spins it, gas costs too much"—never mind that the president has essentially no impact on gas prices in the short-term.
  • The Koch-financed PAC Americans for Prosperity is spending $6 million on an ad hyping the much-discussed bankruptcy of the solar company Solyndra, raising the spectre of "FBI raids" and implying that Obama approved the grant—which was initially advanced by the Bush administration—in order to satisfy major campaign contributors. At the end of the ad, the narrator says "Tell President Obama: Workers Aren't Your Pawns"—rich coming from a group that's sought to undermine worker protections at every opportunity.
  • The American Petroleum Institute, the primary mouthpiece for the oil industry, has spent $4.3 million since January, according to reporting by the Washington Post—a figure which puts them ahead of everyone but a few super PACs in terms of campaign spending. One typical ad asks viewers to stop "another bad idea from Washington"—the "bad idea" being putting an end to oil industry tax breaks—while others simply beat the oil-and-gas-jobs drum. If you haven't noticed the API stamp on many ads, it's because they tend to run under innocuous-sounding names like "Energy Nation," "Energy Citizens," and "EnergyTomorrow," with the API acknowledgement in fine print.
  • The American Energy Alliance, which also receives funding from the Koch brothers, has spent around $3.6 million on ads warning that "nine dollar gas" is on the horizon as a result of Obama administration policies and dropping in sensationalist references to Solyndra, Keystone, and (gasp!) Europe—none of which has anything to do with the hike in gas prices.

And there's more where that came from: The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has pledged to spend $40 million on ads touting the benefits of clean coal—despite the fact that clean coal technology doesn't actually exist, and isn't likely to anytime in the near future—while groups like the US Chamber of Commerce have bankrolled ads for candidates who favor oil interests.

Elizabeth Wilner, a political ad expert with Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group, told the Los Angeles Times that the Center for American Progress' numbers may already be out of date. On target or not, the real figures are sure to grow as the campaign ad wars ramp up. Stay tuned.