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Big Oil's Love Triangle

Our colleague Amy Harder reports (for members) on how big oil's special relationship with the GOP is giving way to pragmatic election-year concerns. 

Only in Washington could a stormy love triangle form among congressional Republicans, big oil, and President Obama.

The made-for-a-telenovela affair started a few months ago, when several oil and natural-gas trade groups and companies started collaborating with the White House to craft a regulatory strategy on natural gas and hydraulic fracturing, the controversial production process known as "fracking." ...

Both the White House and the oil and gas industry have something to gain by thawing (at least temporarily) the frozen relationship they've had the last three and a half years. The White House can point to its collaboration with industry on regulations that, the administration says, will ensure the country can produce domestic energy and jobs in an environmentally safe way. The oil and gas industry can simultaneously hedge its bets--polling shows a dead heat between Obama and Romney--and capitalize on Obama's embrace, even if it is a temporary, election-year recalibration. If the industry ever had a window to try to leverage its small amount of influence with this White House, this is it. ...

Translation, a little flirting is good business. Even GOP aides on Capitol Hill seemed to acknowledge that. "It's a trade association's responsibility to have the best relationship possible with the president, even given the circumstances," said a House Republican leadership aide who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. "Similar to the bully in school--be as friendly as possible to him hoping the next beating won't be so bad."

Besides, the GOP knows the industry will come home. Despite the hand-holding between API and the White House, the party has always been its everlasting love. So far this year, the oil and gas industry has given $18 million to Republicans and a scant $3 million to Democrats, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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