The folks over at Virginia Virtucon caught this story over a week ago, but I decided to dig deeper, so I watched the video and did some research.
MoveOn.org has launched a multi-campaign TV ad blitz titled "Red-Handed", trying to tie certain republicans to perceived scandals.
For some reason they chose to attack Thelma Drake, the freshman Republican congresswoman from Virginia Beach, who ran for the seat vacated by Ed Schrock, who was driven from the race over stories that he was gay (thank's democrats -- party of tolerance indeed).
The ad is a cheezy piece, unlikely to draw attention. It is a classic guilt-by-association gambit, only without the association.
The central charge of the piece, if you want to call it a charge, is that Rep. Drake "accepted more than thirty thousand dollars from energy companies and she voted against bills that would have penalized those companies for price gouging". The fact sheet says the actual amount was $32,250.
Their fact-sheet referenced above refers us to a site PoliticalMoneyLine, which in a touch of irony has a story about Alan Mollohan and his ethical troubles, which I discussed here.
But the two pages of interest are the Drake 2004 and Drake 2006 pages. There is little detail here, but we find that in the 2 cycles, she received $20,000 in 2004 cycle, and $15,250 in 2006, for a total of $35,500, not $32500. But further, these are not just "energy companies", but all companies or individuals in the fields of Energy and Natural Resources". You have to pay money to get a breakdown here.
But you can go to OpenSecrets to get more information. They show over $20,000 for the 2006 cycle from this sector, which includes Electric Utilities, Mining, and Waste Management in addition to oil and gas companies. Looking at her biggest contributions by INDUSTRY, the only one on this list is Mining, at $6000. So it is clear she didn't get $30,000 from energy companies.
Further, a Virginia Representative DID make the top 20 in recipients of money from this industry, but it isn't Thelma, it is Rick Boucher, Democrat, at over $82,000 (probably also not mostly from energy companies, he got 12,000 from mining companies).
They likewise mischaracterize the votes she supposedly took to support these energy companies: "Instead of protecting us, Congresswoman Drake has been caught red-handed, protecting oil company profits while we pay more at the pump."
Energy companies do not have excessive profits. As a percentage of their revenue, the energy sector is about average. Because of mergers, and the sheer volume of sales, the absolute dollar value of profits for the companies looks very large indeed. But they are hardly "windfall profits", or unreasonable.
To illustrate, in 2005 Microsoft earned $12 billion on sales of about $40 billion, for a return on investment of over 25 percent. ExxonMobil, in the last quarter, earned $11 billion, but had to sell over $99 billion to do so, a return of less than 10 percent. If Microsoft was able to sell as much in year as ExxonMobil ($370 billion), their earnings for the year would be over $100 BILLION dollars, compared to the $36 billion ExxonMobil earned.
But you won't see any Democrats complaining about how Microsof is gouging the consumers of operating systems and computer software, or talking about making Microsoft pay extra taxes because of their "obscene profits". It probably doesn't hurt that Bill Gates and Microsoft are both strong Democrat contributers.
So, I am at a loss as to why MoveOn chose to target Delegate Drake and to falsely imply she has been corrupted somehow in the little over a year she has served in the House. I hope her constituents will not be swayed by this MoveOn hit piece.