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Barack Obama Still Takes in Oil Money

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Barack Obama Still Takes in Oil Money
By Dan Morain
The Los Angeles Times

The Illinois Democrat received $46,000 in donations from 
executives and workers last month. In a campaign ad, he 
said he took no money from oil companies.

Sen. Barack Obama continued accepting donations from oil 
company executives and employees last month even as he 
aired ads in which he stated he took no oil company money, 
his campaign finance reports show. 

Obama has taken at least $263,000 from oil company 
executives, family members and employees since entering 
the presidential race last year, including $46,000 last 
month. At least $140,000 has come in chunks of between 
$1,000 and $2,300, the maximum permitted under federal 

Texas oil executive Robert L. Cavnar of Milagro Exploration 
and his wife, Gracie, have helped the Illinois Democrat 
raise at least another $50,000 by helping host a fundraiser 
earlier in the campaign. 

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Other oil industry donors have included Sinclair Oil 
President Ross Matthews of Texas and John B. Hess, chairman 
of Hess Corp., a New York-based oil producer and retailer 
with operations worldwide. Hess, who has given to other 
presidential candidates, including Sen. John McCain, gave 
$2,300 to Obama last year, as did his wife, Susan. Hess 
gave $14,000 to Obama's Senate run in 2003. The oil 
executives did not return phone calls.

In the weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania primary, Obama 
aired a campaign spot in Indiana and Pennsylvania that 
sought to reinforce his theme that he would change the 
Washington culture, while also tapping into voter distress 
about the high price of gasoline. In the ad, he called for 
a windfall profits "penalty." 

"Since the gas lines of the '70s, Democrats and Republicans 
have talked about energy independence but nothing's changed 
- except now Exxon's making $40 billion a year and we're 
paying $3.50 for gas. I'm Barack Obama. I don't take money 
from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I won't let 
them block change anymore," says the spot, which aired as 
recently as April 8. 

Obama's ad is factually correct. He does not take money 
from oil companies. A 1907 federal law bars all 
corporations from giving money to political candidates. 
However, oil company employees can make donations. 

As the ad aired, Obama took $12,400 from oil company 
executives and employees in increments of $1,000 or more. 
Altogether, people who identify themselves as working for 
oil and gas companies donated $46,000 in March. 


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Obama spokesman Ben Labolt said unlike Sen. Hillary Rodham 
Clinton and McCain, Obama refused to take money from 
federal lobbyists and political action committees.

"He accepted no contributions from oil and gas company 
political action committees, or from those who are paid to 
lobby Congress on behalf of oil and gas companies - the 
money that is intended to purchase influence and access on 
behalf of corporate interests," Labolt said. 

Clinton countered Obama's ad with one detailing his oil 
company-related donations from employees and executives of 
Exxon and other major petroleum companies. Factcheck.org, 
part of the Annenberg School of Communications at the 
University of Pennsylvania, also chastised Obama for airing 
the spot. 

"From our perspective, if there is a distinction between 
oil company PACs and lobbyists, and their executives, it 
is a mighty fine line," said Sheila Krumholz, director 
of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which 
tracks campaign donations. "They all represent the same 
interest - oil." 

Clinton has taken $336,000 from oil company executives and 
employees since entering the presidential race, including 
$27,000 in March. McCain took $41,000 last month, for a 
total of $445,000.

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Donors who spoke with The Times said their contributions 
were not directed by their employers. 

Bill Mintz, communications director for Apache Corp., a 
Houston-based oil company, said his decision to give - he 
contributed $2,300 in February before Obama's ad aired - 
was neither solicited by his company executives nor by 
Obama's campaign. 

Mintz said in an interview that the Obama ad did not make 
him regret his donation. But he also said the spot under-
scored what he saw as a persistent problem in the political 
discourse over energy.

"I don't think either party is addressing the country's and 
world's energy needs realistically," Mintz said. "We're not 
going to produce our way out of this and we're not going to 
solve the problem with conservation and alternative energy."


Times researcher Maloy Moore and data analyst Sandra 
Poindexter contributed to this report. 

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