Day Of Reckoning Approaches For Moratorium

Todd Shriber
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The moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the White House's knee-jerk reaction to the Gulf spill is slated to end on November 30. Oddly enough, that is just a few days after Thanksgiving and the end of this foolhardy ban will certainly give plenty of folks something to be thankful for. In another slightly ironic twist, November 30 is a Tuesday, but the day of reckoning for the moratorium and its supporters will come four Tuesdays prior to the 30th.

Tuesday November 2 is Election Day and you do not need to be a political science major to know that this is an election day that the oil industry has been longing for since, well, the last one when things did not really go the industry's way. Before jumping to conclusions, it is important to note the stereotype of oil fat cats lining the pockets of only Republican candidates is not entirely true.

Big industry groups, whether its financial services, technology or oil, will typically give more money to whatever party is currently holding a congressional majority. That is just the nature of the political donation game. That said, big oil plays politics in a big way and thanks in part to the moratorium, donations from the industry are up this year. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the oil industry has donated $17 million to various House and Senate candidates in this election cycle, well above the amount it donated in the 2006 mid-term cycle.

A Democrat is the second-largest receiver of oil money aimed at Senate races and there are three Democrats among the top-10 receivers oil cash being used for House races. Obviously, $17 million sounds like a lot of money, but keep in mind that by one estimate I spotted, Exxon Mobil (XOM) makes over $1250 per SECOND.

Consider the $17 million an investment. It is the oil industry's way of cleaning house so to speak. After all, if you look at a Bloomberg News poll from July, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed were not in favor of the moratorium to begin with. It seems the so-called ''average'' voter or poll respondent was smart enough to see the forest through the trees and realize the Gulf spill was BP's (BP) fault, not the fault of the entire industry.

Where does this leave politicians that have backed the spill? In a world of hurt. The president's party usually loses seats in the mid-terms and that party had done enough before the moratorium to likely ensure the loss of their majority in the House and at the very least, a much slimmer majority in the Senate. The Washington Posts points out something interesting in a recent Gallup poll.

The poll says in a high-turnout election, Republicans are favored by 13% over Democrats. One statistical model says that translates to the Republicans winning a stunning 71 House seats. Assuming low voter turnout, a scenario that usually benefits Republicans, the GOP's lead jumps to 18%, or a gain of a whopping 86 seats.

I don't see either of those numbers as likely, nor is the moratorium the sole reason why plenty of Democrats will be looking for new employment in a few weeks. The moratorium was an unnecessary icing on an already inedible cake. In a sick twist of fate, an unintended consequence of the moratorium has been job losses, but its doubtful that the politicians that supported the ban thought it would be their jobs in jeopardy. If they had, we may not be having this conversation.