The Big Oil Money Behind the Members of Congress Who Fueled the Capitol Attack

Violent extremists walk through a cloud of tear gas in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Violent extremists walk through a cloud of tear gas in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP (Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Chevron decried the assault on the Capitol by a mob of violent extremists hellbent on halting a democratic process. ,“We call for the peaceful transition of the U.S. government,” the biggest oil company in the U.S. tweeted. “The violence in Washington, D.C. tarnishes a two-century tradition of respect for the rule of law.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Two of the key ingredients for the violent insurrection were 123 House Republicans who signed onto a Texas lawsuit full of baseless claims and legal theories and more than a dozen Republican senators who invoked conspiracy theories to challenge the election results. Many of those people are in power thanks to the political donations of none other than Chevron. The company is hardly alone; other fossil fuel companies and the industry’s main trade group have also plunged money into the coffers of those who objected to a free and fair election.

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Earther pulled data directly from the Federal Election Commission for individual donations and aggregator site Open Secrets to see just how much corporate PACs of Chevron and Exxon, two of the largest oil companies in the U.S., and the American Petroleum Institute, the main trade group, gave members of Congress who helped inspire Wednesday’s violence with their actions and rhetoric. We also reached out to these entities to see if they would continue to fund the campaigns of any members of Congress who challenged the election results.

In Chevron’s case, the company’s corporate PAC donated $745,000 to those House members over the past decade and more than $127,000 to the seditious senators. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who led the push to challenge election results in states they don’t represent and cheered on protesters, each received $10,000 from Chevron’s PAC in 2018. Cruz also enjoyed a $15,000 donation from the company’s PAC for his Senate run in 2012. Those donations went to helping re-elect Cruz and elect Hawley. On the House side, the PAC has spent $58,000 keeping House Minority Whip Steve Scalise in office. Scalise, who is intimately familiar with politically motivated violence having been shot at a House softball practice in 2017, baselessly said prior to the riots that “there have been serious questions about the integrity of the electoral process.” Other recipients include Rep. Dan Crenshaw ($11,000), who put out a Mission Impossible-style video glorifying attacking political enemies ahead of the Georgia runoff; Rep. Kevin Brady ($56,500), who began to question the election before the results were even fully in; and Rep. Mark Mullwayne ($17,500), who called the attack on the Capitol a false flag even as police were trying to clear the mob.

Exxon hasn’t put out a statement on the Capitol violence, perhaps taking a cue from Chevron getting dragged on Twitter as a result. The company’s PAC has, however, donated a lot of money to those who don’t support the democratic process. It was just as generous as Chevron was with Cruz, giving him $25,000 over the course of his tenure in the Senate. The company goes way back with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who said she would challenge the results before backing down after the violence; their first donation to her goes back to 2003 when she was running for the House, and they’ve donated to her in every election since, records show.

Over the past decade, Exxon’s PAC has kicked nearly $1.5 million to guilty House members, basically twice Chevron’s investment in ending democracy. Scalise ($44,000) again cleaned up as did Brady ($52,000), which isn’t surprising given that they represent major oil and gas extraction and manufacturing regions, though Exxon could fund less seditious candidates and probably still get a decent bang for its buck. It’s also given to Rep. Mo Brooks ($5,000), who also went the false flag route on the attack and also thinks sea level rise is caused by rocks falling into the ocean (sorry, but it’s my favorite fact); Rep. Barry Loudermilk ($17,000), who wanted to decertify Georgia’s results presidential results, which is very convenient for him since he represents a Georgia district; and Rep. Elise Stefanik ($33,500), one of the few women in the Republican caucus to challenge the results, whom Trump praised during impeachment proceedings as a “new Republican Star [sic].”

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In response to whether Exxon would continue to financially support these members of Congress, the company said: “Thanks for reaching out. We are reviewing the contributions of the PAC.” They did not respond to a request to clarify if that meant they would end their support.

Then there’s API. The group didn’t put out a statement on Wednesday, but it did retweet President and CEO Mike Sommers, former chief of staff to ex-House Speaker John Boehner, who decried the violence in his former workplace. Sommers himself kicked $20,000 to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s PAC and $5,600 to Kevin McCarthy for Congress. McCarthy joined Republicans contesting the vote, with Rep. Mo Brooks telling CNN that “Kevin McCarthy’s part of the team.” He voted to decertify the election even after the violence, but he opposes impeaching the president and said on Friday that we should “lower the temperature” after coaxing it to a fever. Then there’s $2,200 for Trump’s re-election itself and $6,600 for two Rep. Steve Scalise-related ventures.

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API’s PAC is the smallest player of the three analyzed here (though to be fair, it’s not a multibillion-dollar company), spending $133,500 on House members who backed decertifying the election. The list contains many of the big oil players mentioned above, which is perhaps unsurprising given the companies it represents.

API did not respond to a request for comment asking whether it or Sommers would end support for members who inspired Wednesday’s barbarity that left a multiple people dead, including a Capitol police officer, though Sommers did tweet earlier on Friday that his “heart breaks for the family and friends of the U.S. Capitol Police officer who died as a result of yesterday’s violence.”

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DISCUSSION

cmallen
C.M. Allen

“Totally don’t do what we told you to do for us, but if you do, well, we’re not responsible for it either!”

Frankly, the whole Trump administration is perfect example of why I adamantly believe that all elected and appointed officials need to be considered ‘under oath’ for the entirety of their service. If you lie, at any time, while performing your duties or operating in any official capacity, that would be an act of perjury. If that kind of honesty is a problem for someone, that is not someone who should be entrusted with any power or authority.

Of course, I also adamantly believe that donations should not be allowed to specific candidates but to the election process itself — funding for advertisements, phone banks and callers, etc. That should all come out of a single central pool, divided equally among all candidates. Nobody would be able to dump huge sums of money on one candidate in an effort to tilt the scales in their favor and sway public opinion.