NBC, CNN repeat McCain's criticism of Obama for 2005 energy bill vote, but neither report included Obama response

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

NBC and CNN uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's charge that Sen. Barack Obama voted for an energy bill in 2005 that was "full of goodies and breaks for the oil companies," while McCain voted against it. Neither provided a response from the Obama campaign, which says that Obama voted for the bill because it included extensive investments in renewable energy. Nor did either report note that the bill actually resulted in a net tax increase for the oil and gas industry.

Reporting on Sen. John McCain's tour of a nuclear power plant in Michigan, NBC and CNN uncritically reported McCain's charge that Sen. Barack Obama voted for an energy bill in 2005 that was "full of goodies and breaks for the oil companies," while McCain voted against it. Neither provided a response from the Obama campaign, which says that Obama voted for the bill because it included extensive investments in renewable energy. Nor did either report note that the bill actually resulted in a net tax increase for the oil and gas industry.

NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported on the August 6 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News that, "touring a nuclear power plant today, McCain pointed out Obama voted for the Bush-Cheney energy bill three years ago." She then aired a clip of McCain saying, "When the energy bill came to the floor of the Senate full of goodies and breaks for the oil companies, I voted against it. Senator Obama voted for it." Similarly, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry also uncritically repeated McCain's claim August 6 on The Situation Room, despite the fact that former Sen. Tom Daschle said earlier on the program that Obama voted for the bill "because, in large measure, it included for the first time some of the alternative energy developments that this country so badly needs." Neither report mentioned Obama's responses to the charge, despite their inclusion in recent Associated Press and CNN.com articles.

Indeed, an August 4 Associated Press article reported that "Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the Democrat voted for the bill because it included huge investments in renewable energy," and an August 5 CNN.com story said Obama defended his vote during the primary season, saying "it was the best that we could do right now, given the makeup of Congress." Further, Obama issued a press release on June 29, 2005, that said: "This bill, while far from a solution, is a first step toward decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil." The release went on to cite the legislation's investments in biofuels, plug-in hybrids, flexible-fuel vehicles "that could travel up to 500 miles per gallon of gasoline," and clean-coal technology as reasons he voted for the bill. The release also quoted him saying:

"So, I vote for this bill reluctantly today, disappointed that we have missed our opportunity to do something bolder that would have put us on the path to energy independence. This bill should be the first step, not the last, in our journey toward energy independence."

And contrary to McCain's claim that the bill was "full of goodies and breaks for the oil companies," a February 27, 2007, Congressional Research Service report found that although the bill "included several oil and gas tax incentives, providing about $2.6 billion of tax cuts for the oil and gas industry," it also "provided for $2.9 billion of tax increases on the oil and gas industry, for a net tax increase on the industry of nearly $300 million over 11 years":

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05, P.L. 109-58) included several oil and gas tax incentives, providing about $2.6 billion of tax cuts for the oil and gas industry. In addition, EPACT05 provided for $2.9 billion of tax increases on the oil and gas industry, for a net tax increase on the industry of nearly $300 million over 11 years. Energy tax increases comprise the oil spill liability tax and the Leaking Underground Storage Tank financing rate, both of which are imposed on oil refineries. If these taxes are subtracted from the tax subsidies, the oil and gas refinery and distribution sector received a net tax increase of $1,356 million ($2,857 million minus $1,501 million).

From the August 5 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

MITCHELL: And touring a nuclear power plant today, McCain pointed out Obama voted for the Bush-Cheney energy bill three years ago.

McCAIN: When the energy bill came to the floor of the Senate full of goodies and breaks for the oil companies, I voted against it. Senator Obama voted for it.

MITCHELL: In fact, as energy prices climb this summer, both candidates have shifted with the political winds. McCain is now a true believer in offshore drilling, which he once opposed.

McCAIN: We're going to drill offshore and we're going to drill now.

From the August 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, it's impossible to separate yourself from the record, and the record is very clear when it comes to energy in particular, but a lot of the issues. On 90 percent of the votes taken in the Senate over the course of the last eight years, John McCain and Barack Obama -- I mean, John McCain and George Bush have been together. He has voted against --

BLITZER: But a couple years ago in an energy bill that the president supported, Senator McCain opposed it because he thought it was too much -- there was too much fat in there. Senator Obama supported the president's energy bill.

DASCHLE: Well, that's because, in large measure, it included for the first time some of the alternative energy development that this country so badly needs. It included some of the conservation methods that we have been trying to get in the books for a long period of time. John McCain opposed that bill, [unintelligible] --

BLITZER: But it had a lot of -- it had a lot of benefits, though, for big oil, that legislation.

DASCHLE: Well, it had -- it's had some benefits for energy overall, but clearly, if we're ever going to change course, we've got to understand the importance of alternative energy.

[...]

HENRY: Obama has a much more cautious approach to nuclear power. He does not want to build any new plants without first getting a better handle on safety and security.

OBAMA [video clip]: It means finding safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste.

HENRY: Now, in that speech, Obama also stepped up his attacks on McCain by charging once again that he's in the pocket of the oil industry. But McCain is firing back that, back in 2005, when the president's energy bill came up for a vote, Obama voted for that. That had some huge tax breaks for oil and gas interests. McCain voted against it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ed Henry, for that.

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, Associated Press
Person
Ed Henry, Andrea Mitchell
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News, The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.