Four months ago, as oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and threatened Panhandle beaches, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio stubbornly defended his support for offshore drilling.
"The issue of offshore drilling is not going away, because America and the world depends heavily on petroleum products," he told the St. Petersburg Times.
As legions of Floridians fretted over oil-drenched birds and fleeing tourists, Rubio may have been better off aligning himself with Castro. So why did he do it? Well, it surely couldn't hurt that one of his biggest campaign contributors is oil-refining giant Koch Industries.
According to the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, individuals and PACs associated with Koch Industries have given $21,600 to Rubio in the 2010 election cycle. They are Rubio's sixth-largest contributor, behind more obvious suspects such as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
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Brothers Charles and David Koch, who own nearly all of the Kansas-based Koch Industries conglomerate, are renowned for giving millions of dollars to right-wing causes, especially think tanks and front groups that deny the existence of global warming. A recent Greenpeace report on the company found that from 2005 to 2008, Koch Industries-controlled foundations vastly outspent ExxonMobil in contributions to groups that are part of the "climate denial machine."
A recent New Yorker profile detailed the breadth of the Kochs' influence in Washington. "They are the Standard Oil of our times," Charles Lewis, founder of the nonpartisan watchdog Center for Public Integrity, told the magazine.
Americans for Prosperity, a foundation that David Koch started, works closely with the Tea Party, so it's little wonder the Kochs have chosen to bestow a small chunk of their wealth on Rubio, rather than, say, Charlie Crist.
But in a tough Senate race after a massive oil spill, does Rubio really want to accept hefty donations from Big Oil? His campaign spokesman has not yet responded to a request for comment. We'll update when/if he does.