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Claims Dept: Dole's votes on oil

Majority Action, a liberal 527 group created by two Democratic political consultants, is running a TV ad attacking U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole's record on oil issues.

What it says: The ad flashes corporate logos as ominous music plays and a narrator talks about Dole's record. "Chevron, $18.7 billion. BP, $20.8 billion. ExxonMobil, $40.6 billion. Big oil companies are making billions at our expense. And where has Elizabeth Dole been? In Washington, taking over a quarter-million in campaign cash from Big Oil and voting to give them billions more in tax breaks. Tell Elizabeth Dole we need lower fuel costs, not billions for big oil." Text on the screen reproduces phrases from two news articles: "Big Oil's Big Windfall ... a minimum of $7 billion and as much as $28 billion" and "$2.6 billion for oil and gas industries."

The background: Oil companies drilling on federal land typically pay a royalty fee.

In 1995, Congress created a royalty relief program for oil companies to spur production in the Gulf of Mexico. Waivers granted between then and 2000 added up to at least $7 billion in lost revenue for the federal government.

Dole was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002.

As part of an omnibus energy bill in 2005, Congress extended some of the royalty relief provisions by another five years, but it cost far less than the previous measure. Dole voted for that bill.

Though an exact figure is not available, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the extensions and several other provisions in the 2005 bill would cost the federal government about $200 million over the following five years.

(Update: The U.S. Department of the Interior says it has so far cost the goverment nothing.)

Apart from royalty relief, the 2005 energy bill included $2.6 billion in tax cuts for oil and gas companies, but it also included $2.9 billion in tax hikes — a net tax increase for the industry.

Congressional budget analysts say they do not consider the royalty relief program to be a "tax break," although it has a similar effect on the federal budget.

Dole has received $266,456 in campaign contributions from people associated with the oil and gas industry since 2002 and another $35,000 from oil and gas companies' political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bill Buck, executive director of Majority Action, defended the ad, but did not offer any other specifics.

"We assert that Senator Dole voted for billions in tax cuts for the oil industry because it is true," he said in an e-mail to Dome.

Is the ad accurate? In large part, no. The ad does not back up its claim that Dole has given "billions ... in tax breaks" to oil companies. The $7 billion figure cited is wildly inaccurate, since it refers to legislation from before Dole's time in the Senate and is not even properly termed a "tax break." The $2.6 billion figure is also misleading, since it leaves out the offsetting tax hikes in that bill.

Correction: An earlier version of the post incorrectly described its founders.

Claims Dept: 527 ad on mileage standards

Majority Action, a liberal 527 group funded by investor George Soros, ran a radio ad last weekend that attacks U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole's record on mileage standards.

What it says: "Gas prices are over $4 a gallon, and if you’re traveling this holiday weekend one person you can thank for your higher fuel costs is Elizabeth Dole. In July of 2003, Dole voted against raising fuel mileage standards for our cars and trucks. If Dole had voted to raise mileage standards then, they would be taking effect today and North Carolina families could be saving $1,600 or more on fuel costs every year. Dole has also taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry and voted to give oil company giants like ExxonMobil billions in tax breaks."

The background: In 2003, the U.S. Senate debated a mammoth energy bill for more than two months. One amendment to the bill would have raised mileage standards on new cars, trucks and SUVs by specific benchmarks over several years, including 32 miles per gallon in 2008.

Dole voted against that amendment, which failed by nearly a two-thirds vote. She voted for a different amendment that would have left mileage standards up to the U.S. secretary of transportation.

In the end, both amendments were a moot point, since the bill never came to a vote.

According to a 2006 U.S. Department of Energy report, the average vehicle in the United States gets 20.2 mpg. In theory, a household with two cars both going the average 12,408 miles a year could save more than $1,600 a year on gas if they got 32 mpg instead.

Still, that presumes that the family replaced both cars and did not change its driving habits.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Dole has received $261,456 from the oil and gas industries since her election in 2002.

But as has reported, while the 2005 energy bill that Dole supported had $2.6 billion in tax cuts for oil and gas companies, it also had $2.9 billion in tax hikes for those same companies — a net increase of $300 million over 11 years.

Is the ad accurate? It's a stretch.

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