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FactCheck.Org Defends McCain Against Obama Oil Claims

We’ve written a lot about reports issued by FactCheck.org — the non-partisan fact-checking Website from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center — challenging many of the charges leveled by the McCain campaign against Sen. Barack Obama. The Website’s newest analysis takes issue with an Obama TV ad linking Sen. John McCain to "Big Oil."

In the ad, the Obama campaign claims that McCain has received $2 million in campaign contributions from oil executives, and it asserts McCain wants to give oil companies $4 billion in tax breaks.

FactCheck.org found that the $2 million figure was "inflated," according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign financing. The actual figure is closer to $1.3 million — still far more than Obama has received from the oil industry. From the report:

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{"type":"text","text":"According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics – which both campaigns cite as authoritative from time to time – [McCain had received $1,332,033](http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/select.php?ind=E01) from persons in the oil and gas industry (both directly and through company-sponsored political action committees), not $2.1 million as the Obama campaign claims. Those are the most recent and authoritative figures available and are based on reports on file at the Federal Election Commission as of July 28.  "}

The Obama campaign said it cobbled together its $2.1 million figure by adding one total from a report in The Washington Post, which said oil and gas donors gave $1.1 million to McCain in June, and an older total from CRP, which put the McCain campaign’s total at just over $1 million through May 30. But that turns out to be adding apples to oranges, and it does not give an accurate figure for money that went directly to "John McCain’s campaign," as the ad puts it. Much of the money given in June went to a joint fund-raising venture of the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee and several state GOP committees, an unknown portion of which was passed through to the McCain campaign itself…

We judge the $1.3 million figure from the Center for Responsive Politics, which includes any money transferred to McCain’s campaign, to be the most authoritative tally of oil and gas donations to the campaign. And we conclude that the $2 million figure in Obama’s ad is the result of counting some donations raised during June that actually went elsewhere.

The report goes on to note that Obama has received $394,465 from individuals connected to the oil industry, despite past claims that he does not accept money from oil companies — which cannot make campaign contributions. FactCheck.org also found Obama’s charge that McCain wants to give oil companies $4 billion in tax breaks to be "misleading."

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{"type":"text","text":"The ad’s claim that \"McCain wants to give [oil companies] another $4 billion in tax breaks\" is also somewhat misleading. McCain is not proposing any special tax breaks for the oil industry. What he’s proposing is a reduction in the corporate income tax rate for *all* companies. The $4 billion figure that Obama and many Democrats have constantly repeated recently is their estimate of the amount by which oil company taxes would be reduced should this proposal be enacted without any additional offsets, such as closing of existing preferences or \"loopholes.\"   "}

McCain’s proposal would cut the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. It also would allow for immediate write-offs for companies buying new equipment and technology, and a tax credit of 10 percent of the amount companies spend on wages devoted to research and development. The Obama campaign points to an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund from Mar. 27, which estimated that the McCain plan would be worth a total of $3.8 billion per year to the five largest U.S.-based oil companies, Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Valero Energy and Marathon. That was based on 2007 earnings and tax figures. Since then, the industry’s profits have risen substantially, so the reduction in corporate tax rates might benefit them even more by the time it could be enacted in a McCain administration. But the benefit would go to all companies, not just those in the oil business.

McCain certainly has received far more money than Obama from individuals working for oil companies — McCain’s a Republican, would we expect otherwise? But it appears that misleading campaign disinformation is a two-way street — though McCain has been a far more frequent and persistent offender than his opponent. In the interest of fairness and balance (hem), it should be exposed regardless of who is doing the spinning.

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