With the Supreme Court's decision this week to continue to defend secret campaign contributions from corporations, three House Democrats today introduced legislation that would demand oil companies disclose their political contributions to gain access to new taxpayer-owned lands.
Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) offered the Obtaining Information through Leasing on Money and Disclosure Act (or OIL Money Disclosure Act) as a way to provide transparency and hold oil companies accountable for their potential influence over the political system. The bill would require oil companies to disclose their campaign contributions over the previous five years in order to receive new leases to drill on public land.
"The American people are being asked to lease more and more public lands to the oil companies, but we can't see what kind of campaign contributions those oil companies are now making to potentially influence the political process in ways that might influence that process," said Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee. "
"This bill simply says that, if Big Oil companies want to drill on more of America's public lands, they owe fair compensation to the American people -- not only in dollars, but in responsible corporate citizenship," said Rep. Holt, the Ranking Member of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee. "They should disclose, clearly and publicly, the money that they are spending to influence our political debate."
"We should require corporations who profit from America's oil and gas resources to tell the American people how those profits are being used in political campaigns," said Rep. Tonko, a member of the Committee. "Big Oil gets paid twice by the American taxpayer -- once at the wellhead and again at the pump. The very least we should do is require Big Oil to be transparent and open about who they support at the polls, instead of hiding behind shadowy political attack ads."
Due to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, and this week's Supreme Court dismissal of Montana's limits on corporate campaign contributions, SuperPAC's have now remade the American electoral landscape. As of last week, 611 groups organized as Super PACs have reported raising more than $221 million and total independent expenditures of more than $120 million in the current 2012 election cycle. A single super PAC, the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, has already spent more -- $46.5 million -- than all outside groups combined had spent on independent expenditures by this point in 2008.
Oil companies have been pushing Congress to open up new areas to drill. Last week, Republican lawmakers passed legislation in the House of Representatives that would hand over nearly all of the public lands available to drill to oil companies within a few short years. Yet oil companies already hold tens of millions of acres of land on which they are not drilling, and U.S. oil production on public and private land is at an 18-year high.
During consideration of the legislation last week, House Republicans voted down Democratic amendments to require oil companies to forgo some of the roughly $4 billion in annual tax breaks they currently receive each year. House Republicans also voted down an amendment aimed at requiring oil companies to actually drill on the public lands they currently hold leases on, an amendment to stop allowing the oil companies to drill for free on certain offshore public lands, and an amendment to ban the export of oil and natural gas produce on public lands to Asia, Latin America and other foreign regions.