For years, Ohio Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur had no problem taking thousands of dollars from big oil companies. But now that record-high gas prices are threatening the 39-year incumbent's reelection chances, she says those same companies are "gouging consumers."
Kaptur has taken nearly $18,000 from major oil and gas companies since 2013, including $12,000 from BP Corporation North America, federal campaign finance disclosures show. With Ohio experiencing record-high gas prices under President Joe Biden, however, the Democrat is blaming the trend on BP and other "big oil" companies. "As Big Oil raises prices and gouges consumers, one CEO recently called his company a 'cash machine,'" Kaptur said in a May tweet that included a graphic with a slash over BP's logo. "It's outrageous."
Kaptur's newfound blame game shows how Democrats are attempting to avoid political backlash over sky-high prices at the pump, which come after Kaptur's House Democratic colleagues pressured oil executives to produce less gas. Biden—who pledged to "end fossil fuel" during his campaign—has repeatedly blamed oil companies for rising gas prices, even after energy experts debunked the claim. In April, meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) insisted the American public is "blaming oil companies" for record-high gas prices instead of Democrats—even as poll after poll after poll finds that voters blame gas prices and surging inflation on Biden.
Power the Future executive director Daniel Turner admonished Kaptur for her recent rhetoric, noting that the oil and gas industry produces hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in revenue in Ohio.
"If the congresswoman really thinks these companies are doing damage, then why would you accept any money from them whatsoever? It's one big joke," Turner told the Washington Free Beacon. "And if she really wanted to see the energy industry rebound, she would distance herself from Biden's failed energy policies, which have caused the energy crisis we're in. Ohio is a very important and critical energy state."
Kaptur's campaign did not return a request for comment.
Kaptur claims she's worked to lower gas prices for "working people" by supporting the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, a Democrat-led bill that Kaptur and her colleagues say would combat oil companies' "greed." But four House Democrats voted against the legislation, with Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D., Texas) arguing the bill "would not fix high gasoline prices" and "has the potential to exacerbate the supply shortage our country is facing, leading to even worse outcomes." Former Obama administration economic adviser Jason Furman also criticized Democrats' price gouging bills, which he called "gimmicky."
In addition to Kaptur's big oil campaign cash, the Democrat in December held up to $100,000 worth of stock in Nutrien, a fertilizer company that relies heavily on fossil fuels, Business Insider reported.
Kaptur first joined Congress in 1983 and has won all but three of her reelection bids by at least 20 points. This November, however, she is set to face one of the most difficult campaigns of her career after Ohio's redistricting process made her district considerably more red. Kaptur will face Air Force veteran J.R. Majewski in November—the Republican has raised $257,000 to Kaptur's $974,000 as of April 13.