September 2008

“I am very angry, frankly, at the oil companies, not only because of the obscene profits they’ve made, but at their failure to invest in alternate energy to help us eliminate our dependence on foreign oil.”

–Sen. John McCain June 13, 2008

Where did that guy go? He was the Republican senator who built his maverick image in part by taking on the oil barons, opposing them on such big issues as opening our public waters to drilling rigs. But, astonishingly, the senator who was so angry at oil executives is now hugging them like old buddies and parroting their line. “My friends, we have to drill offshore. We have to do it,” he declares today. Why do we “have to” do it? Because, he says, ” the oil executives” told him it would be a good thing.

To know what caused this stunning flip-flop, follow the money. On June 16–only three days after his “angry” speech–McCain gave another talk in which he abruptly reversed his long-held opposition to offshore drilling. Then, that very same day, he boarded his “Straight Talk Express” airplane and flew off to Texas for–guess what?–a series of fundraisers with oil executives. On June 17, for example, he snuggled with energy honchos at a closed-door luncheon at the San Antonio Country Club–and walked out with a love offering of $1.3 million for his presidential campaign.

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A McCain spokesman said huffily that it is “completely absurd” for anyone to suggest that the candidate’s switch in position had anything to do with oil money. “McCain takes positions because he thinks it’s the right thing to do for America,” the spokesman insisted. Uh…which position would that be, sir? The angry anti-oil view expressed on June 13, or the exact opposite delivered three days later?

If McCain is confused on the political equation of “position = money,” Big Oil definitely is not. Prior to his miraculous conversion on June 16, the industry had never warmed up to him, ranking a distant 12th on his career list of top contributors. With his speech and Texas schmoozefest, however, McCain opened the spigots. As one advisor to oil companies put it, “I think the industry was very appreciative.”

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