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Fact check: Obama and oil

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
GREENBURG, Pa. -- The Clinton campaign today accused the Obama campaign of "false advertising," claiming that a recent ad Obama released in Pennsylvania was disngenous because Obama has been the recipient of more than $200,000 from the oil and gas industry.

In the ad, Obama says, "I'm Barack Obama, and I don't take money from oil companies or lobbyists, and I won't let them block change any more."

Obama has taken $213,884 from the oil and gas industry as of Feb. 29th, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Sen. Hillary Clinton has taken $306,813 in that same period.

Two of Obama's campaign bundlers are also CEOs for oil and gas companies, per a list released on his campaign Web site.

Robert Cavnar, listed as a bundler who has raised between $50,000 to $100,000 for the campaign, is the chairman and CEO of Mission Resources Corp., a Houston-based firm. George Kaiser, also listed in the same $50,000 to $100,000 category, is the CEO of Tulsa-based Kaiser-Francis Oil Company.

"It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is using false advertising to explain why he can be trusted to do something about energy prices," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.  "Senator Obama says he doesn't take campaign contributions from oil companies but the reality is that Exxon, Shell, and others are among his donors."

Obama routinely criticizes companies like Exxon-Mobil on the stump, but over the course of his presidential campaign he has taken more than $30,000 from individuals working for Exxon-Mobil. Clinton has taken more than $20,000 from Exxon-Mobil in the same period.

Just last month, Obama took more than $11,000 from individuals at Exxon-Mobil, per the center. At least 12 of those contributions came from individuals who contributed $250 each, the lowest listed donation. In that same period, Clinton took more than $3,000 from individuals working at Exxon-Mobil.

However, many of those contributions appear to come from workers at the firm not just executives. For example, Patrice McGowan, an Exxon-Mobil shift supervisor, who lives in Joliet, Ill., has donated $982 to Obama as of January. She also has a blog profile on Obama's campaign Web site.

"I am a single woman who has worked shift work all my life, sometimes never seeing another woman on the job for weeks," her profile reads, in part.

In a statement today, Obama spokesman Bill Burton, reiterated that Obama doesn't take PAC money or money from federal registered lobbyists, and "that includes oil companies and oil lobbyists."

Picking on the energy industry is a standard part of Obama's stump speech, where he harshly criticizes the 2005 energy bill and the Vice President Dick Cheney's efforts in passing it.

"Exxon Mobil reported more than $10 billion in quarterly profits," Obama told a town hall in Greenburg, Pa. today. And then referring to Cheney, he added, "He met with the oil and gas companies 40 times. So is it any wonder than that the energy laws that were written were good for Exxon-Mobil but they are not good for you?"

However, Obama did vote for that bill and has been repeatedly criticized by the Clinton campaign for the vote. Obama has defended that vote saying that despite it being a "flawed bill," it had strong provisions for alternative fuels and was the best deal that could be struck on the issue. 

Today, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the bill, supported by Pennsylvania Congressmen Murtha and Kanjorski "actually raised taxes on oil companies and made the largest investment in renewable energy in our nation's history."

Despite the attacks, Obama doesn't appear to be backing down from his criticism of the energy industry or on special interest influences.

"I don't take PAC money," he said this evening. "I don't take money from federal registered lobbyists. I don't want those strings attached."