Obama, McCain, and “big oil”

Barack Obama has been attempting to portray John McCain as “in the pocket of big oil.” But as Jake Tapper shows, that’s a charge that can be leveled at least as persuasively against Obama himself.

It is true that McCain has received significantly more money from the oil industry in general than Obama has. According to Tapper, the figures are $1.3 million for McCain compared to approximately $394,000 for Obama. However, data from the Federal Election Commission show that Obama has received slightly more campaign cash than McCain has from the employees of some of the biggest oil companies — Exxon, Chevron and BP.

And ultimately, if being “in the pocket of big oil” is a concept with meaning, the extent to which a politician is in said “pocket” is better measured by votes cast than by campaign contributions received. In this regard, as McCain points out, he voted against the 2005 energy bill that conferred several billion dollars of benefits on the oil industry. Obama voted in favor of that legislation.

Obama says he voted for the legislation not because of what it did for “big oil” but because of the investments it provided in renewable energy sources. But whatever Obama’s motivation, and whatever the merits of the vote, it’s difficult, and indeed dishonest, to argue that McCain is in the pocket of “big oil” given his vote against what McCain calls “corporate welfare” for oil companies.

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