Who’s behind the “I am an energy voter” ads?

You might have caught the TV ad. A nondescript person in front of a white background talking about how oil and gas means more jobs or energy security or other life-improving result before proclaiming, “I am an energy voter.”

With the flurry of anti-Clinton and anti-Trump ads running right now, the kindly mother talking about oil field jobs seems positively genteel.

The organization behind the campaign – dubbed Vote 4 Energy – is none other than oil industry lobbying giant American Petroleum Institute, which is running the ads in a steady rhythm across the country ahead of election day next month.

A fixture of the 2012 presidential campaign also, Vote 4 Energy is billed as non-partisan and not in support of any one candidate. A spokesman for API described the ad campaign in an email as “focused on engaging the American public on the importance of energy to jobs, lowering emissions, revenue to the government, and national security.”

“We believe that a well-informed public leads to better public policy,” he said.

API won’t say how much they’re spending on the national campaign, only that it’s “significant.” And judging by their more than $240 million annual budget and the frequency of the ads popping up on CNN, you might want to add a couple zeros to significant.

As a non-profit business organization – dubbed 501 (c)(6) by the IRS – API doesn’t have to file campaign reports with the Federal Election Commission. But looking back at their 2012 IRS filing – the year of the last presidential election – they reported spending $73.5 million on advertising and promotion.

By way of comparison, that’s about a third of what Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has raised so far.

Now API doesn’t just  run election ads. Whether it’s warning boaters that ethanol can damage their engines or promoting offshore drilling, the lobbying group is a fairly steady advertiser.

Even in 2013 – when there was no federal election scheduled – API spent $67.9 million on advertising, according to their IRS filings.

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