Interest groups get in on the action as debate over oil industry taxes heats up

Amid revived debate over eliminating oil industry tax breaks, key interest groups on both sides of the political debate stepped up their advocacy on oil and gas issues this week.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) targeted seven House lawmakers in their home districts for voting against a March 1 motion to add language to a stop-gap spending measure that would have eliminated oil industry tax breaks.

The measure failed on a mostly party-line 176-249 vote.

LCV and its local chapters sent out statements targeting the lawmakers Wednesday, part of a broad effort by environmental groups to tie Republicans to the oil industry.

One of the statements, for example, criticizes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) for receiving contributions from Exxon Mobil's political action committee (PAC).

“In the past three months alone, Congressman Cantor has taken thousands in campaign cash from Big Oil and in return has kept doling out taxpayer dollars to the most profitable companies in the U.S. while Virginia families suffer under sky high prices at the pump,” LCV Senior Vice President of Campaigns Navin Nayak said in the statement. Cantor received $5,000 from Exxon's PAC in the first quarter of 2011.

Other House lawmakers targeted by LCV for receiving oil industry contributions and voting against the proposal to eliminate oil tax breaks include: Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.).

Meanwhile, the Consumer Energy Alliance, an oil industry advocacy group, launched this week an online advertising campaign, with ads running on Real Clear Politics and the Drudge Report. The campaign calls on Obama to reduce the country’s reliance on imported oil in favor of expanded domestic oil and gas production.

Obama has called for slashing oil imports by one-third by 2025. He has said there is a place for oil and gas production in the short-term, but it's important to wean the country off its oil dependence in the long-term.

All of this comes as the White House pounced on recent remarks by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that indicated he could be open to supporting the elimination of some oil industry tax breaks.

Boehner’s office quickly walked back Boehner’s remarks, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from seeking to revive the issue, which President Obama outlined in his fiscal year 2012 budget request.

As gas prices continue to rise, the pressure is on in Washington to take action. But, analysts say, there is almost nothing that policymakers can do to lower high gas prices.