Our Common Good

The “American” in American Petroleum Institute, the country’s largest oil lobby group, is a misnomer. As I reported for The Nation in August, the group has changed over the years, and is now led by men like Tofiq Al-Gabsani, a Saudi Arabian national who heads a Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) subsidiary, the state-run oil company that also helps finance the American Petroleum Institute. Al-Gabsani is also a registered foreign agent for the Saudi government.

New disclosures retrieved today, showing some of API’s spending over the course of last year, reveal that API used its membership dues (from the world’s largest oil companies like Chevron and Aramco) to finance several dark money groups airing attack ads in the most recent election cycle.

Last year, API gave nearly half a million to the following dark money groups running political ads against Democrats and in support of Republicans:

• $50,000 to Americans for Prosperity’s 501(c)(4) group, which ran ads against President Obama and congressional Democrats.

• $412,969 to Coalition for American Jobs’ 501(c)(6) group, a front set up by API lobbyists to air ads for industry-friendly politicians, including former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).

• $25,000 to the Sixty Plus Association’s 501(c)(4), which ran ads against congressional Democrats.

Jack Gerard, the president of API, was a close ally to the Mitt Romney campaign. Like the US Chamber of Commerce, API is one of several large trade associations that has spent heavily in support of Republican candidates. 

The disclosures also show that in 2011, API spent over $68 million for public relations/advertising with the firm Edelman, $5.4 million on “coalition building” with the firm Advocates Inc, and $4 million with DDC Advocacy for “advocacy.” DDC is the firm led by Sara Fagen, the former Bush White House aide ensnared in the DOJ purges scandal. DDC now works with corporations to help them communicate with workers on how to vote.

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