A new report in The Nation on Friday details how the so-called American Petroleum Institute, a major lobbying group for Big Oil, is both funded in part by a Saudi oil company and directed in part by a registered foreign agent for Saudi Arabia who heads a subsidiary of that Saudi oil company.
It also reports that the Institute’s 2011 tax returns show almost half a million dollars in gifts to dark-money organizations that ran attack ads in America’s most recent elections — and that’s just what the Big Oil group spent in 2011. Just imagine what the 2012 figures could be.
The upshot is that this is the most glaring case yet of foreign corporate money being spent to influence American elections.
It’s illegal for individuals who are not U.S. citizens to spend money to influence our elections, but Citizens United removed similar restrictions on corporate spending. Shortly after the decision was issued, President Obama made this point during his 2010 State of the Union address. Justice Alito famously and controversially shook his head and mouthed the words "not true". Now it’s clear that President Obama was right about this.
Here are some excerpts from The Nation‘s report, by Lee Fang:
Saudi-Led Oil Lobby Group Financed 2012 Dark Money Attack Ads
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 soon to be former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).
• $25,000 to the Sixty Plus Association’s 501(c)(4), which ran ads against congressional Democrats.
Here’s an action we’re launching on this today, along with our friends at Roots Action.