Twitter and Qik Cover Pro-Oil Drilling Protest in House

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Ben Pershing at the Washington Post writes, “If a party stages a protest on the House floor but no one can see or hear it, does it make a sound?” Yes, it makes a tweet.

After adjourning for the annual summer recess, House Republicans took to the floor to protest the failure of the House to hold a vote to allow offshore drilling. Since the protest happened after adjournment was announced, the House cameras and lights were turned off. While Republicans shouted from the floor and journalists hurried to see what was happening, GOP Rep. John Culberson was tweeting away the happenings from the floor. Culberson even let some other lawmakers take over his account including Roy Blunt, Adam Putnam, John Shimkus, Tom Price, Ted Poe, Virginia Foxx, and John Shadegg. Culberson’s tweets marked yet another moment where Twitter broke a story before it could make it to the news.

Culberson is also Qiking the event. Pretty cool stuff.

But, Twitter isn’t the only angle to this story. These lawmakers aren’t simply taking to the floor to demand help for gas consumers, they are pushing a central facet of the oil industry’s legislative agenda: offshore drilling. Just yesterday it was announced that, yet again, ExxonMobil broke the record for largest quarterly profit pulling in $11.7 Billion.

And as many can predict, the oil industry is very liberal in its contributions to the campaigns of congressmen who support their agenda. Let’s start with the lawmakers who are mentioned as on the floor by press accounts and Rep. Culberson’s tweets:

Career Contributions from Oil & Gas Companies.
Brady, Kevin (R-TX) $369,797
Blunt, Roy (R-MO) $362,248
Culberson, John (R-TX) $301,961
Boehner, John (R-OH) $185,000
Shimkus, John (R-IL) $184,161
Pence, Mike (R-IN) $150,950
Poe, Ted (R-TX) $128,650
Shadegg, John (R-AZ) $119,495
Putnam, Adam H (R-FL) $70,300
Foxx, Virginia (R-NC) $47,100
Sali, William T (R-ID) $43,000
Price, Tom (R-GA) $24,500

Source: Open Secrets

That’s a lot of money on the floor of the House right now.

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  • Rep. Culberson,

    Clearly OpenCongress lags behind in reporting bill cosponsors. I see through THOMAS that you cosponsored H.Res. 504 last month. Being the most recent cosponsor, I hope that you are successful in getting your colleagues to sign on.

    In terms of cost analysis reporting, I’d look at WashingtonWatch.org, which is run by Jim Harper of the Cato Institute. Washington Watch is a Sunlight grantee.

    Paul

  • Dem02020

    People vote with dollars before election day.

    For instance, VECO Corporation voted with dollars for Sen. Ted Stevens: $102,500 worth, according to OpenSecrets.org.

    VECO Corporation also supported Sen. Ted Stevens’ work as a free market Republican so much, that they voted for him with more than just dollars: a new Land Rover, and more than $250,000 worth of renovations to Sen. Stevens’ home in Alaska, according to a Federal Indictment.

    Who would have thought a Congressman could be indicted, just because an oil company voted for him with a wraparound deck and a Viking gas grill.

  • Paul

    I have co-authored HR 504 to require all bills to be posted on the Internet and available to the public for a minimum of 72 hours before the bill could be voted on by the House. I have already been actively promoting it among my Republican colleagues and will work hard to get it adopted – but with one change – that it cannot be waived except by a 4/5 vote of the House due to a national emergency.

    I am determined to do my small part to restore the public’s lost trust in Congress by using these new media tools to shine sunlight in every dark corner of Congress, and by trying my best to live up to the standards set out by Sunlight in your evaluation of members of Congress.

    Please expand your scrutiny and your scorecard to BILLS and not just Members.

    Start with the bills on the floor. The scorecard is easy to design.

    How much money does the bill spend or raise in taxes or fees? How many pages is it? Was it considered in a committee hearing? Were amendments permitted, considered or adopted, in committee or on the floor? How many? By who? How much time was provided for the public and Members to read and debate the bill on the House floor or in committee?

    With over $56 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and the GAO predicting that US Treasury Bonds will be graded as “junk bonds” by 2020, these are immensely important questions that won’t wait for HR 504 to become law.

    Sunlight Foundation ought to be issuing a Sunlight/Transparancy Report Card grade right now on every bill voted on by the US House. It would be easy to do and your scrutiny alone would be a big deterrent to the abuses we have seen.

    I voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill and most of the other major spending initiatives proposed over the last seven years because I am committed to balancing the budget.

    My good name and my independent good judgment are not for rent or sale, and I welcome support from people who agree with my work as a free market Jeffersonian republican, whether they work for an oil company or a high tech firm. They support me because they agree with me and want to help me win re-election.

    People vote with dollars before election day and with their vote on election day, and Congress is filled with good people doing the best they can to make good decisions based on their own view of the world.

    Thanks for letting me comment here, and I sincerely hope you will start issuing a report card on House bills.

    John Culberson
    Member of Congress, Texas

  • Just an fyi to put this in perspective – the average of oil industry donations in the House is $55,052. SO most of these guys are deep in Big Oil’s pockets…

    http://www.followtheoilmoney.org

  • Rep. Culberson,

    Sunlight does shine in all directions; you can check our record if you doubt us.

    We also support all the forms of transparency that you are questioning us on.

    If you want to help stop the ridiculous process of bringing bills to the floor with little time to read them – something not unique to this Congress, it was done not only with this mortgage bailout bill, but with the Medicare bill of 2003, and the PATRIOT Act – you could cosponsor H. Res. 504, which would require bills to be available on the Internet for 72 hours prior to consideration on the floor.

    Thank you for coming and commenting here, your openness, candor, and use of online media are rare in a member of Congress and we certainly appreciate that here at the Sunlight Foundation.

    Paul

  • @Dem02020 – If you don’t see corruption in what you’re asserting, I’d be interested to know what your definition of corruption is.

  • I’m a Democrat in John Culberson’s district in Houston, Texas. I’ve been following Culberson since he started twittering, and have been fairly impressed with him despite myself.

    Yes, Culberson is representing both his core beliefs and his base (of which I am a vocal, mostly dissenting minority), and last time I checked Houston is still a giant hub of the petrochemical industry.

    I am skeptical of the antics pulled by the GOP in the House on Friday, especially due the ridiculous behavior reported here

    “Rep Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) just pretended to be a Democrat. He stood on the other side of the chamber and listed all of the GOP bills that the Dems killed.

    He then said, “I am a Democrat, and here is my energy plan” and he held up a picture of an old VW Bug with a sail attached to it. He paraded around the House floor with the sign while the crowd cheered.”

    In my opinion, that should be an embarrassment to everyone involved.

    Mainly, I’m seeing lots of rhetoric framed in the terms of “Let’s drill here and now to reduce the cost of oil to consumers!” rather than “Let’s open up oil exploration and on federally protected land and waterways NOW to increase oil production in 10 to 12 years, with a marginal impact on world oil prices.”

    I also want more explanation about this, from August 1st:

    http://thinkprogress.org/wonkroom/2008/07/31/speculator-bill-killed/

    During yesterday’s vote on the Commodity Markets and Transparency Act (H.R. 6604) to rein in oil profiteers, House Republican leaders pressured 13 of their members to switch their vote from “yes” to “no.” Thanks to these strong arm tactics and weak members, the bill to lower gasoline prices by controlling profiteers failed by a vote of 276-151, falling ten votes shy of the two-thirds majority required for passage under the suspension of the House rules. Once again, the GOP leadership used their power to help keep oil prices and profits high, while hurting the average driver.

    That seems to put things in an entirely different and unsympathetic light.

    Granted, I twittered this to John Culberson, and got a direct reply with an offer to correspond directly with him regarding this for clarification on the bills in question, and have not had the opportunity to take him up on it. The fact that he made the offer in the first place kicked my esteem for him up another notch.

    Additionally, Culberson’s complaint about bills being submitted late and being forced to vote without hearings and discussion definitely seems valid, regarding the Mortgage bail-out, and prior to that the military funding bill which was pushed through with ridiculous haste, so I can understand some of the frustration with the ways our representatives are forced to try to do their jobs.

    Also, looks like this is definitely not over:
    http://twitter.com/johnculberson/statuses/876895297
    @johnculberson I will be back on House floor tomorrow at 10 am with others asking the Speaker to call the House back for a vote to drill here drill now!

  • Dem02020

    @Andrew Wright – I made no such assertion that “simply accepting contributions automatically makes one corrupt”, or that “simply because Reps have taken contributions doesn’t make their arguments any less or more valid”: nowhere in my comment are any words or thoughts even close to those; you used your imagination a little too much, in misreading my words.

    Nowhere in my comment is found the words (or even the concept of) “having it both ways, and feeling contributions to Reps you like are ok, but for the other side it equals corruption”: you invent out of your own imagination, things I did not write (or even think), just so that you can win a point of argument (I guess), that I did not even make.

    And so as to be certain I am understood (and to maybe dare your imagination to run wild some more), what I essentially wrote was:

    Rep. Culberson accepts large amounts of contributions from the oil and gas industries: $301,961, according to the above article.

    Rep. Culberson joined in the antics of other House Members, who, after the House had adjourned, made a spectacle of themselves, all for the purpose of advancing the business objectives of the oil and gas industries (and their lobbyists, of whom Rep. Culberson seems little distinguished from), by calling for more and more leases of Federal Lands (despite the millions of acres they presently hold lease on, but refuse to drill, because the profits to be had aren’t “wind-fall” enough).

    Rep. Culberson, in his own words above, says: “I proudly represent the US headquarters for oil service companies, drillers, producers, and companies like BP, Exxon Mobil Chemical, Shell, and the world headquarters for ConocoPhilips.”

    I conclude from those facts, that Rep. Culberson is a business agent for the oil and gas industries, and does his work in their interests, in our Congress and in making our Laws; and that he is paid handsomely for his efforts by them the oil and gas industries, several times over and above his salary as a U.S. Congressman.

    True.

    And nowhere in those words and that thought of mine, is anything about “simply accepting contributions automatically makes one corrupt”, or any of the other things you imagined I wrote.

  • Actually, you can see it and hear it:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2644080713793375256

    Tim
    11,382 days

  • @Paul – Thanks for posting those contributions. True, there’s no protest from anti-drilling Reps, but there’s certainly forces behind the decisions not to allow any debates or votes on the issue.

    @GeekMommy – I applaud you’re approach and an ability to separate biases from observations about how technology helped the public see and hear what transpired on Friday.

    @JohnCulberson – That you care enough to come here and communicate (along with your use of Twitter and Qik) are extremely refreshing. I think that anyone, whether or not they’re with you politically, should agree on that.

    @Dem02020 You make the assertion that by simply accepting contributions automatically makes one corrupt. Money in politics is a topic that certainly should be discussed (particularly here), but simply because Reps have taken contributions doesn’t make their arguments any less or more valid. You can’t have it both ways and feel contributions to Reps you like are ok but for the other side it equals corruption.

  • L. Steve Taylor from the country of TEXAS

    I could be wrong, but why didn’t the House Republican’s blow some of their hot air at Bush and try and pressure him to call congress back, until they voted on energy, what a plus for the GOP, McCain, conservatives, ect., what a no brainer John C.

  • Dem02020

    WE maybe wonder just what effect Sunlight has on some people: I think it stings them! It stings them, to have the light shined on them…

    I loved it, when the above item that cited the antics of certain House Members, and cited what they did after the House had adjourned, and when that item included in it what those Members take as compensation from oil and gas corporations…

    Culberson, John (R-TX): $301,961

    It stung so much, it got a response here in these pages, from Rep. Culberson himself!

    I love it!

    And so in response to being stung like that, what did the Representative have to say?

    “I’m a dad and a husband and I believe in Thomas Jefferson.”

    OK… I gues maybe that’s got something to do with being paid so handsomely by oil and gas companies, to argue for more leases for them, to drill more on off-shore Federal Lands (despite those companies holding lease already on so many millions of acres, but not drilling those lands because it’s not high-margin and profitable enough for them to do so).

    OK, what more can he say about being stung here, and about us knowing how well he is paid to promote off-shore drilling?

    “Convicted felon and former Congressman Duke Cunningham is a bum and a thief.”

    OK…

    “I hang out with and pal around with Rep. Kucinich.”

    What’s that got to do with anything?

    “Speaker Pelosi runs the US House like the Supreme Soviet.”

    What?

    “And the $5 trillion Mortgage bailout bill…”

    What? Wait! What’s that got to do with working in the U.S. House of Representatives as an agent for oil and gas companies?

    “And the biggest expansion of the federal government since the New Deal: Where is the outrage from the left?”

    Wait, I’m confused…

    “I proudly represent the US headquarters for oil service companies, drillers, producers, and companies like BP, Exxon Mobil Chemical, Shell, and the world headquarters for ConocoPhilips…”

    WAIT… STOP… there it is! Say that again please, Rep. Culberson.

    “I proudly represent the US headquarters for oil service companies, drillers, producers, and companies like BP, Exxon Mobil Chemical, Shell, and the world headquarters for ConocoPhilips”

    OK, good, great… I’m glad we got that out into the Sunlight: it all makes sense now, we’ve come full circle, it all makes sense now… it’s been brought completely into the light:

    Culberson, John (R-TX) is compensated handsomely by oil and gas companies, to the tune of $301,961, and acts as their agent in Congress, promoting more and more leases for those companies, and for off-shore drilling too, because… “I proudly represent the US headquarters for oil service companies, drillers, producers, and companies like BP, Exxon Mobil Chemical, Shell, and the world headquarters for ConocoPhilips.”

  • As the Internet community gets to know me, I hope you will see me as a human being rather than what you expect based on shallow stereotypes.

    As I have said repeatedly in interviews, blogs, Tweets etc, I am a father, a husband and a Texan first, and a true believer in the core principles of Thomas Jefferson.

    Whatever I say or do is driven by these core beliefs. It really is that simple.

    My friend Cong. Dennis Kucinich is a good example from the other end of the political spectrum. He and I enjoy kibbitzing on the House floor and are friends from my first days in Congress when our offices were next door to each other.

    He is also motivated by his core beliefs, not campaign contributions.

    People and their fellow employees through their PACs contribute to Dennis and me and others because we share the same goals and core beliefs.

    There are bums and thieves like former Congressman and convicted felon Duke Cunningham in every line of work, but that does not make all the other good people in that same line of work bums or thieves.

    If we weren’t true believers with a lot of patience (and a sense of humor!) we couldn’t do this job.

    Think about it. Put yourself in our shoes.

    For example, put yourself in my shoes.

    I am a third generation Houstonian, fifth generation Texan, and in the summers in college, I worked offshore in the oil field as a “mud logger,” sort of a well site geologist who sees the oil strike first and charts and maps it. Really interesting work that fits right in with my interest in geology and science.

    I proudly represent the US headquarters for oil service companies, drillers, producers, and companies like BP, Exxon Mobil Chemical, Shell, and the world headquarters for ConocoPhilips and all their geologist/scientist/engineer employees.

    We Texans all know the immense benefits of drilling here in the US asap – and that it be done cleanly without polluting the environment.

    We are also smart enough to know oil and gas won’t last forever so we are all big supporters of big investments in research to develop new energy sources that will carry America beyond the age of oil.

    Therefore every chance I get I am going to be a zealous advocate to drill here, drill now to pay less. This is common sense.

    What my Republicans colleagues and I did on the House floor today was instinctive and automatic.

    Speaker Pelosi refuses to let the House vote to drill here drill now and adjourned the House abruptly today to stop we who disagree from even speaking.

    Speaker Pelosi runs the US House like the Supreme Soviet.

    No dissent and little or no debate with little if any public notice and few or no public hearings and as few votes as possible.

    We were motivated to act by our core beliefs and our anger at Pelosi’s abuse of power and her steady destruction of the most important democratic features of this great instution we love – the United States House of Representatives.

    It is truly that simple.

    Please shine sunlight on every aspect of decision making by public servants, including our campaign contributions, but don’t assume we are corrupted or driven by campaign contributions. That is a shallow and stereotypical analysis that demeans all the good people in public service who are doing their best to do the right thing for the right reasons.

    I wish the Sunlight Foundation would shine sunlight and analyze the deepest darkest hole in Washington – the House floor – as I have suggested many times.

    For example, the $5 trillion Mortgage bailout bill was written in total secrecy by a handful of people and filed at 6:39pm one night, then dropped onto the House floor the next morning for two hours of debate and a vote up or down.

    This is the biggest expansion of the federal government since the New Deal and it was written and passed into law (on the House side) WITH NO PUBLIC HEARINGS, NO AMENDMENTS AND NO WITNESSES AND NO COMMITTEE DEBATE.

    Where is the outrage from the left?

    The banks can pass the worst 15% of their loans onto our children and grandchildren to pay off, and We the People face an unknown level of bad debt of hundreds of billions of dollars and unfunded liability of up to $5 trillion.

    Has the Sunlight Foundation or any other public minded entity (like Common Cause, etc) or ANYONE other than conservatives objected to any of this?

    No – I don’t think so.

    I am outraged by this crass abuse of power – the arrogance and duplicity of Speaker Nancy Pelosi who promised the “most open and honest and ethical Congress in history”

    The secrecy and absence of hearings and limited debate with no or few amendments is standard operating procedure in Pelosi’s House, yet no one in the public arena other than conservatives seem to complain about it.

    I urge the Sunlight Foundation, Comon Cause and all other public minded organizations to shine the white heat of sunlight equally and fairly on all – liberal and conservative – and above all, to fight to protect our right as free people to a full and open democratic process in the greatest democratic government institution ever created in the history of man – the United States Congress.

    Thanks

    John Culberson, Texas
    Member of Congress

  • Whether or not one agrees with Rep. Culberson’s politics or finds his motives more than a little biased – it is most interesting to note that, yet again, the Internet and technology have provided a voice when one side would keep the other silent.

    I’m reminded of the August 1991 attempted Coup in the Soviet Union which was primarily foiled by the access of individuals to the Internet who were able to get news & information out to the West despite a “complete communications lockdown” on the part of the would-be overthrowers.

    Communication won’t necessarily change your values, but it may help change history.

  • Same Oil & Gas list: Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $403,019 Obama, Barack (D) $345,410. What’s your point?

  • Andrew,

    You make a good point. If there were an anti-drilling protest going on right now that appeared to be operating against the rules of the House, I’d certainly be interested in the campaign contributions from environmental groups (which are significantly lower than those of the oil & gas industry). OpenSecrets.org provides all of this information at the tips of your fingers so, allowing you to research lawmakers and interests yourself. Here’s a link to their page on environmental group contributions:
    http://opensecrets.org/industries/summary.php?cycle=2008&ind=Q11

    And here’s a list of the top ten current members of the House in terms of amount received over their career:

    Mark Udall (D-CO) $353,948
    Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) $200,477
    Jay Inslee (D-WA) $157,085
    Brian Baird (D-WA) $135,329
    Tom Udall (D-NM) $104,292
    Jerry McNerney (D-CA) $100,639
    Rush Holt (D-NJ) $95,620
    Rick Larsen (D-WA) $94,091
    Sam Farr (D-CA) $90,212
    Frank Pallone (D-NJ) $85,587

  • Oops, my bad. Billion, not million. Fixed. Thanks.

  • It would be great to see a list of contributions from those groups opposing offshore drilling. Sunlight should shine in all directions.

  • By my math, that works out to each of these guys averaging $21,140 of oil money per year.

    I’d consider supporting their cause if they gave me $21k a year, too.

  • That should be $11.7 billion, with a ‘b,’ obviously.