Media misleadingly claim Obama is the "single largest recipient of BP's cash"

››› ››› ERIC SCHROECK

Media outlets have misleadingly claimed that President Obama is "the single largest recipient of BP's cash" to back up Sarah Palin's baseless suggestion that contributions from oil companies have affected Obama's response to the Gulf oil spill. In fact, the money comes almost entirely from individuals employed by BP, not the corporation itself, and represents a minuscule fraction of Obama's total campaign contributions.

Palin suggests connection between Obama's response to oil spill and contributions to him by oil companies

Palin suggests connection between "contributions made to President Obama" by oil companies and administration's response to oil spill. From the May 23 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

PALIN: Well, I think that there is, perhaps, a hesitancy to -- I don't really know how to put this, Chris [Wallace], except to say that the oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign and are supportive of him now, I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration -- if there's any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now if this was President Bush or if this were a Republican in office who hadn't received as much support even as President Obama has from BP and other oil companies, you know the mainstream media would be all over his case in terms of asking questions, why the administration didn't get in there -- didn't get in there and make sure that the regulatory agencies were doing what they were doing with the oversight to make sure that things like this don't happen.

Media cite campaign contributions "from BP" to back up Palin's claim

AFP notes Palin's comments, says BP's "single largest donation" during past 20 years went to Obama. In a May 23 article about Palin's comments, Agence France-Presse reported: "More than 3.5 million dollars has been given to candidates by BP over the last 20 years, with the largest single donation, 77,051 dollars, going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics [CRP]." From the AFP article:

"I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to president Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration," she told Fox News Sunday.

More than 3.5 million dollars has been given to candidates by BP over the last 20 years, with the largest single donation, 77,051 dollars, going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Palin suggested this close relationship explained why Obama was, "taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico."

Drudge hypes AFP article about Palin's accusation. On May 24, the Drudge Report linked to the AFP article with the headline, "Day 34: Palin accuses Obama of being in bed with big oil":

Drudge headline: Day 34: Palin accuses Obama of being in bed with big oil

Citing CRP's data, Doocy claims Palin was "absolutely right." On the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, after airing Palin's comments, co-host Gretchen Carlson said, "According to the Center for Responsive Politics, President Obama received more than ... $71,000 from BP, and I guess that was more than any other candidate among the 3.5 million that BP has donated over the last 20 years." Co-host Steve Doocy later said that "when it comes down to the single largest recipient of BP cash, [Palin is] absolutely right ... it was Barack Obama."

Hoft cites AFP article, Palin to attack Obama "for his lax response to the Gulf oil spill crisis." In a May 23 post, Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft wrote: "Sarah Palin slammed President Obama today for his lax response to the Gulf oil spill crisis. (Obama went golfing again yesterday.) Palin pointed out Big Oil's record donations to Obama in 2008." Hoft also linked to the AFP article on Palin's claims.

In fact, money "from BP" to Obama has come almost entirely from BP employees, including all BP-related donations during presidential campaign

CRP: Money donated "from BP" to Obama in 2008 election was entirely from BP employees. Contrary to the suggestion that Obama received donations "from BP" during the 2008 presidential campaign, the money came exclusively from BP employees -- not the corporation itself. In an email exchange with Media Matters for America, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics confirmed that "the $71,051 that Obama received during the 2008 election cycle was entirely from BP employees. ... Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees, so none of this money is from BP's PAC."

CRP data shows BP's PAC contributed $1,000 to Obama's Senate campaign in 2004. According to the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org database, BP's political action committee has made one contribution to an Obama campaign -- $1,000 in 2004, when Obama was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. CRP reports that Obama received a total of $6,000 in contributions from BP's PAC and BP employees prior to 2008.

Donations from BP or its employees represents just .01 percent of Obama's total fundraising. As Media Matters senior fellow Jamison Foser has noted, Obama has raised more than $799 million for his campaigns. The $77,051 he has received from BP's PAC and employees accounts for less than .01 percent of Obama's total campaign contributions.

Scherer: "People who run for President raise much more money, and received much more money from BP interests -- and just about every other interest." In a May 5 Swampland post, Time's Michael Scherer cited CRP's data and noted that "[i]t is true that ... Obama received slightly more money from BP's PAC and employees since 1990 than anyone else." Scherer went on to explain:

But there is a major a reason for that, which the story fails to mention: People who run for President raise much more money, and received much more money from BP interests -- and just about every other interest. The fourth highest recipient of BP money in the same time period is George W. Bush. The fifth highest recipient is John McCain. In the 2000 and 2004 cycles, Bush got the most money, albeit less than Obama received in 2008. But then one could adjust these numbers for campaign inflation: campaigns overall raised much less money in the 2000 and 2004 cycles than the record-smashing 2008 cycle.

WSJ: 75 percent of oil and gas industry's donations since 1990 have gone to Republicans. In a May 23 article about Palin's comments, The Wall Street Journal noted that, according to CRP, "Since 1990, oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to candidates and parties, with 75% of the money going to Republicans." WSJ further noted:

So far in 2010, the oil and gas industries have contributed $12.8 million to all candidates, with 71% of that money going to Republicans. During the 2008 election cycle, 77% of the industry's $35.6 million in contributions went to Republicans, and in the 2008 presidential contest, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain received more than twice as much money from the oil and gas industries as Obama: McCain collected $2.4 million; Obama, $898,000.

Moreover, contrary to Palin's claim, Obama administration responded immediately to spill

Obama administration responded immediately to the spill. Contrary to Palin's assertion that Obama was "doggone slow" in responding to the oil spill, as Media Matters has shown, the Obama administration initiated its response to the spill within hours of the oil rig explosion, which occurred late in the evening of April 20.

Scherer: "[T]here is no evidence ... that the boot-on-the-neck White House has been going soft on BP." Writing on Palin's remarks in a May 24 Swampland post, Scherer wrote: "More importantly, however, there is no evidence (so far) that the boot-on-the-neck White House has been going soft on BP, even as everyone collectively fails to stop the oil from spouting."

Obama issued an executive order establishing an independent commission to investigate BP's oil spill. On May 22, Obama issued an executive order which created an independent commission to investigate the spill. The commission will "examine the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster"; "develop options for guarding against, and mitigating the impact of, oil spills associated with offshore drilling, taking into consideration the environmental, public health, and economic effects of such options"; and "submit a final public report to the President with its findings and options for consideration within 6 months of the date of the Commission's first meeting," among other things.

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