The word “lobbying” makes the majority of Americans cringe, or roll their eyes, or just sadly shake their heads. 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’re taught to check our emotions at the door, so today we’re taking a dispassionate look at lobbying in the oil industry. Using filings from the Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Act database, we’ll review the top spenders, move through some industry issues, and finish up with a reminder on why investors should care about lobbying at all.
Dollars for bills
After the first quarter, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) led all energy companies in lobbying dollars spent, and it ranked eighth among all companies and organizations across all industries. With another quarter of spending under our belts, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) remains tops among energy companies, but it has fallen to 12th place on the overall list. Here are the exact dollar amounts for the company, followed by the other top spenders in the oil industry through the first two quarters of the year:
- Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM): $7.90 million
- Koch Industries: $5.83 million
- Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) : $5.50 million
- American Petroleum Institute:$ 4.19 million
- Occidental Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:OXY) : $3.77 million
- BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) : $3.68 million
- ConocoPhillips: $1.97 million
Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is far and away the biggest spender here, but what’s more important than the big dollars is where those big dollars go.
Where’s the money?
Collectively, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $71 million lobbying some branch of the U.S. government this year. Each lobbying initiative, be it supporting or fighting a specific bill or policy, falls under a three-letter code representing a larger issue group. For example, ENG represents every issue falling under the designation of energy and nuclear power. TAX represents taxation issues, ENV is for environmental issues, and so on.
Here are some of the specific issues represented by those codes that are attracting the big bucks:
Taxes (TAX): Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) filed 16 reports on tax issues alone, making it the company’s top issue by number of reports filed. Examples of its tax issues include “HR 259: Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act; provisions related to revenue and funding,” and “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act; provisions related to revenue and funding.”
Energy and Nuclear Power (ENG): Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX)’s top issue falls under this giant umbrella. The company filed 10 reports targeting issues such as “Oil Spill Liability and Trust Fund,” and “E10+ Blend Wall, ethanol liability protection, co-processing of renewable fuels.”