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In Anti-Reconciliation Blitz, Exxon Spent $275,000 on Facebook Ads in One Week

The fossil fuel industry already receives massive amounts of subsidies from the government.

ExxonMobil's Fife Ethylene Plant where "unplanned flaring" following a malfunction has caused concern amongst local residents, on April 23, 2019, in Cowdenbeath, Scotland.

Oil giant ExxonMobil is pouring millions into Facebook advertisement purchases in a wider lobbying effort against the Democrats’ reconciliation bill, which is slated to include a corporate tax raise and proposals to address the climate crisis.

As of Thursday, Exxon spent $275,000 on Facebook ads just this past week. These ads include a campaign against Democrats’ tax reform proposals to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy. CNBC reports that Exxon has spent $2 million on Facebook ads over the past 90 days.

Though the extent of the issues Exxon is targeting is unclear, CNBC reports that at least six of the anti-reconciliation bill ads ran from Friday to Monday. One of the ads said, “Tell Congress no tax hikes,” and brought users to a page encouraging them to contact their elected officials to “let them know you oppose the proposed tax increases on American businesses.”

The text of the Build Back Better Act hasn’t yet been finalized, but drafts of the bill have included a corporate tax hike from 21 percent to 26.5 percent. This incredibly modest hike falls short of the 28 percent statutory rate that President Joe Biden had proposed in the spring, and even further from the 35 percent rate in effect before Republicans slashed taxes for corporations and the rich in 2017.

Furthermore, it’s dishonest to imply that the tax increases will affect businesses uniformly. In August, the Treasury Department said the tax increases won’t affect 97 percent of small businesses, meaning that the tax raise will mostly only affect larger businesses and corporations like Exxon.

The fossil fuel industry has long been the recipient of extra tax breaks, on top of corporate tax breaks they have likely benefited from.Though climate advocates and progressives like Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) have fought against these tax breaks, the fossil fuel industry is slated to receive fossil fuel subsidies in the reconciliation bill — many of which they have been receiving for years.

Still, the oil and gas industry isn’t satisfied with the massive amount of support they already receive from the government.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Gas Association have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads targeting climate provisions in the reconciliation bill. API broke its single-day total for Facebook ad buys with a $10,800 purchase in early August — and, since then has spent $423,000 on ads, according to a report by InfluenceMap. The American Gas Association has spent $18,000 on similar efforts. In total, these ads have been viewed 23.2 million times.

The API is also targeting specific members of Congress on Facebook, running hundreds of ads encouraging people to either voice their support for elected officials like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) for “being a champion of AMERICAN MADE ENERGY” or calling their representatives to voice their displeasure for being “ready to risk YOUR job by hiking taxes on U.S. ENERGY PRODUCERS.” Which jobs will be affected by a marginally higher tax rate, however, is unclear.

The fossil fuel industry has rallied together to lobby against climate action in Washington over the past year. After President Joe Biden announced a climate plan on his campaign trail last year, fossil fuel companies and trade groups launched a $10 million ad campaign just for Facebook, promoting the idea that natural gas should play a role in the country’s future.

The fossil fuel lobby against the Build Back Better Act is part of a larger campaign by corporations and conservative groups to scale back various aspects of the bill, including tax reforms and Medicare expansion. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured into the lobbying effort against the act, and lobbyists representing corporations like Exxon and Pfizer are targeting Capitol Hill to sway lawmakers against key parts of the package.

The lobbyists’ influence appears to be working. Manchin, who is in charge of writing climate policies in the bill as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is making efforts to carve many of the bill’s most powerful climate policies out of the bill. Instead, he’s working to ensure that the bill protects the use of natural gas and coal, as well as other policies favored by the fossil fuel industry.