Scalise took $40K in campaign cash from PAC of CEO accused of oil price rigging

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise's campaign donations from a Big Oil PAC linked to price rigging accusations spark calls for accountability and investigations.

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Image Credit: AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise is under fire for accepting a $40,000 campaign donation from the Williams Companies PAC, which is linked to an oil price rigging scandal. The donation, noted by the watchdog group Accountable.US, comes from a PAC whose board includes Pioneer Natural Resources CEO Scott Sheffield. Sheffield was recently accused by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of colluding with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to manipulate oil prices, driving up costs for American consumers.

Scalise (R-La.) has long been a staunch supporter of fossil fuel interests, making opposition to public land protections a legislative priority. His acceptance of contributions from the Williams Companies PAC, particularly amidst these serious allegations, has raised questions about his commitment to protecting American consumers from price gouging.

The FTC’s complaint against Sheffield alleges that he held private conversations with OPEC members, assuring them that Pioneer Natural Resources would throttle production to create artificial scarcity, thereby boosting oil prices. This alleged collusion aims to inflate profits at the expense of consumers who are already grappling with high energy costs.

Ranked fourth among all House lawmakers in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests for the 2023-24 cycle, Scalise has received $325,833 from Big Oil. This places him just behind Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) with $572,421, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) with $335,399, and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) with $328,019.

“If Congressman Scalise wants to protect American consumers he should start by holding accountable Big Oil price gougers,” stated Chris Marshall, spokesperson for Accountable.US. Marshall criticized Big Oil CEOs for their profit-driven motives and the politicians who support them, emphasizing the need for accountability.

The FTC’s complaint highlights that Sheffield, through both public statements and private communications, attempted to collude with OPEC and a related cartel known as OPEC+ to reduce oil and gas output. This reduction was intended to drive up prices at the pump, ultimately padding the profits of his company. As a result of these allegations, Sheffield was barred from joining the board of ExxonMobil, which acquired Pioneer Natural Resources.

“Mr. Sheffield’s past conduct makes it crystal clear that he should be nowhere near Exxon’s boardroom,” said Kyle Mach, Deputy Director of the FTC Bureau of Competition. “American consumers shouldn’t pay unfair prices at the pump simply to pad a corporate executive’s pocketbook.”

The controversy has reached the highest levels of government, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) into potential collusion and price fixing by Big Oil. “It’s not hard to feel the frustration—the sheer exasperation—felt by millions when America’s biggest oil companies rake in record profits but still raise prices at the pump. It is deeply, deeply unfair—and now we have reason to believe that in some cases it may be unlawful,” Schumer stated. He described the FTC allegations against Sheffield as “very, very troubling.”

“This is what frustrates Americans so much about Big Oil: Even when they’re making money hand over fist they’ll keep raising prices on us, they will keep squeezing us for everything we’ve got,” Schumer added. He emphasized the need for DOJ intervention to determine if any laws against collusion or price-fixing have been broken, insisting that the American public deserves transparency regarding Big Oil executives’ actions.

The broader implications of this scandal are significant. Manipulating oil prices not only strains household budgets but also undermines public trust in elected officials and regulatory bodies. Scalise’s acceptance of substantial contributions from oil and gas interests, amidst these allegations, casts a shadow over his legislative actions and priorities.

As Scalise faces scrutiny, the political and social repercussions could be far-reaching. This controversy may impact his political career and reputation, especially given the growing public demand for accountability and ethical conduct from elected representatives. Moreover, it highlights the ongoing struggle to balance political contributions with ethical governance and consumer protection.

The oil price rigging scandal underscores a broader issue within the industry and its relationship with government officials. The allegations against Sheffield and the significant contributions to Scalise’s campaign fuel concerns about the influence of Big Oil on policy and regulation. As watchdog groups and lawmakers push for greater accountability, the call for transparency and justice becomes increasingly urgent.

Scalise’s ties to Big Oil and the recent allegations against Sheffield raise important questions about the integrity of political contributions and their impact on policy decisions. The American public, already burdened by high energy costs, looks to their leaders for protection and advocacy against corporate exploitation. As this investigation unfolds, the demand for ethical leadership and consumer protection remains at the forefront of the national conversation.

“In the end, the American people deserve leaders who prioritize their well-being over corporate profits,” said Schumer. “Ensuring fair practices and protections in all sectors is not just a necessity but a mandate for any government that values its citizens.”

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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

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