If you’re like most Americans, the word “lobbying” probably makes you cringe or roll your eyes or shake your head sadly. It’s a game that champions for good causes play, but by and large we equate lobbying with rich, terrible companies having their way at the expense of those less fortunate.
As investors, however, we are taught to check our emotions at the door, so today we are taking a dispassionate look at lobbying in the oil and gas industry (no laughing). We’ll begin with the top spenders, move through some industry issues, and finish up with some investing takeaways.
Hey, big spender
Here are the top five spenders in the oil and gas industry through the first quarter of this year:
|Rank||Company||Q1 Spend |
|1||Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM)||$4.84|
|2||Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX)||$3.66|
|4||Occidental Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:OXY)||$2.05|
|5||American Petroleum Institute||$2.05|
For the record, Shell is tied with API for fifth place so far this year, if you count lobbying on behalf of one of its subsidiaries, Shell Exploration and Production.
It’s still early, and the list above may change slightly by the time December rolls around. Here is a list of the top five spenders for all of last year:
|Rank||Company||2012 Spend |
|1||Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.B)||$14.48|
|2||Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM)||$12.97|
|4||Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX)||$9.55|
|5||BP plc (NYSE:BP)||$8.59|
Depending on your level of cynicism, these numbers may surprise you. BP plc (NYSE:BP) spent only $8.59 million on lobbying last year? That’s nothing! According to opensecrets.org, the oil and gas industry spent a cumulative $139.9 million lobbying in 2012 and more than $36 million so far in 2013. For context, that ranks the industry fourth for overall dollars spent on lobbying, after pharmaceuticals/health products, insurance, and electric utilities. Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is doing more than its fair share: The company ranks eighth on the entire list of companies that spent money lobbying in the first quarter of this year.
Where does the money go?
If you follow the energy industry, there are certainly a few key issues in the news that can indicate what these companies are spending money lobbying for (or against).
For example, many know about Shell’s never-ending quest to pillage subsea oil deposits in the Arctic Circle, so it would be fair to guess that is one issue that received some funds. We can take a closer look at Shell’s spending by pulling up some Lobbying Disclosure Act forms from the Senate’s database located here.
Sure enough, when we pull up Shell’s first-quarter disclosure, the second item on the list reads as follows: “Issues related to air permitting for offshore oil and gas activities; Issues related to permits needed for exploration on Alaska OCS leases.”