August 22, 2008

Ad Accurate in Tying Schaffer to Oil, but Spins Implications

By Raj Chohan

The new attack ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee puts Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in the "Big Oil" box over his ties to the oil and natural gas industry. Schaffer is battling Democratic opponent Mark Udall for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring senator Wayne Allard. The 30-second spot is called "Meet Bob."

Ad: Meet Bob Schaffer. In Congress he voted to give the oil companies over $10 billion in tax breaks.

The claim is true. As a congressman, Schaffer voted for the 2001 energy bill that gave more than $13 billion in tax breaks to energy companies, most of it going to oil- and gas-related interests. But it's not the whole story. While fossil energy got the biggest share of the take, the bill also gave billions of dollars in tax incentives for research into and development of renewable energy.

Ad: Then he left Congress and made $800,000 as an oil executive.

This claim is also true. According to Schaffer's financial disclosures, between 2003 and 2007 he worked for a company called Aspect Energy, earning more than $840,000.

Ad: Then he helped land an oil deal in Iraq that our own government said would undermine America's mission.

This claim is true. During his time with Aspect Energy, Schaffer did some business for the company in northern Iraq for the Kurdistan Regional Government. At the time the Kurds were trying to cut their own deals independent of Iraq's central government.

U.S. policy strongly discouraged this because it was thought that independent deals would undermine the fragile Iraqi government.

Ad: Now Schaffer calls the oil companies' record $50 billion dollars a modest profit.

This claim is true, but there is some spin. Bob Schaffer correctly put the recent record oil profits into context by pointing out that the industry's margin of profit was about 8 percent, right in line if not a little below the S&P 500 average. As it turns out, 8 percent is well below the double-digit profit margins enjoyed by companies such as Microsoft.

Ad: Big oil Bob Schaffer. Do we really want him in the Senate?

Bottom line: The ad correctly points out Bob Schaffer's ties to oil and natural gas. While the commercial implies that working for an energy company is inherently a bad thing, many Americans who make their living producing fossil energy would likely disagree.

Originally published by Raj Chohan, CBS4 News, Special to the Rocky.

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