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Vital anti-corruption law at risk in Washington

By Oxfam
A well operating in the Oriente region of Ecuador pumps oil to the surface. Oil-producing countries can use information about payments from oil companies to their governments to track the use of funds to fight poverty, and ensure they do not fuel corruption. Coco Laso/Oxfam

Oil and mining revenue transparency is a vital source of funds and information for fighting poverty

Right now, Congress is considering repealing a vital section of legislation that requires oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments they make to the US and foreign governments, such as taxes and royalties.

Section 1504, also known as the Cardin-Lugar provision for its original authors Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), is designed to help shine a light on money paid to governments by international companies in exchange for oil, gold, natural gas, and other valuable non-renewable resources. Passing this new law established the United States as a leader in promoting transparency and fighting corruption. Today, this vital anti-corruption law is facing the chopping block.

Natural resource revenues essential for fighting poverty

Many countries suffer from the “resource curse” – they are well-endowed with primary commodities, yet they suffer in poverty. Public information about payments from companies can help citizens in these countries to track where these monies go, and ensure they are used for building schools, hospitals, hiring teachers and doctors and nurses, repairing roads and bridges, and re-invested in agriculture and manufacturing to create more jobs and build their economy.

Transparency is a global standard now

After Congress passed Dodd-Frank with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it, the European Union (28 members, including England!), Canada, and Norway passed laws requiring similar reporting. This means Russian and Chinese state-owned oil companies listed in those markets and others, such as BP, Shell, Total, Rio Tinto and BHP--all of which are cross-listed in the US--have to disclose their payments to governments. None are reporting any negative impacts after several years of reporting consistent with the standard. 

Who else wants to fight corruption?

Groups in resource-rich countries say they need Section 1504 to get the information they need to fight corruption, and hold their governments accountable for their nation’s wealth. Investors here in the US, who represent $10 trillion in assets and own shares in oil, gas, and mining companies want to know how the companies are managing their funds. US citizens concerned about their own security don’t want secret deals by US companies to fund corruption and conflict in countries that turn into breeding grounds for extremists and terrorists. They also want transparent disclosure of payments.

What can you do?

Tell your members of Congress to reject the oil lobby’s efforts to repeal Section 1504: A vote to repeal Section 1504 is a vote for corruption!

To contact your Representative in the House and your Senator: (202) 224-3121

For more on why we need Section 1504:

Big Oil strikes it rich in tax overhaul and looks to repeal landmark transparency law

Voices from Nigeria: Section 1504 “means more for Nigerians than laws from other countries”

 

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