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Cardin Pushes To End Tax Breaks For Oil Companies

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As many of us struggle to cope with skyrocketing gas prices, oil companies continue making record profits.  Now the campaign to end tax breaks for big oil companies picks up support from Maryland's top legal watchdog and a U.S. senator.

Adam May has more on how they're jumping into the debate.

We are now seeing some action on the state and federal level but the reality is that these are uphill battles because big oil has big money and that means a big influence on politics.

As gas prices hover around $4 a gallon, breaking family budgets, the bank accounts of major oil companies are filling up with cash.  The big 5 have made more than one trillion dollars over the last decade.

It's outrageous to Senator Ben Cardin.  Cardin wants to take away $4 billion in annual tax breaks for big oil.

During a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, oil executives defended their profits.

"Raising our taxes will not reduce the price of gasoline," said John Watson, Chevron.

"Oil is more difficult to find, more challenging," said Jim Mulva, Conoco.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler doesn't buy it and he wants to launch a state-level investigation into one oil distributor.

"The company that we wrote a letter to has cooperated fully at this point.  Where we go depends on where the evidence takes us," Gansler said.

But efforts to fine oil companies and raise their taxes face tough opposition as they continue funding political campaigns.  For example, Exxon gave lawmakers more than $2.5 million over the last decade.  Less than 10 percent went to Democrats and over 90 percent to Republicans.  Last year, Ben Cardin didn't take a penny.

"Clearly the oil industry is doing what they can to influence the political process," Cardin said.

His bill to repeal the tax breaks could go to a vote but it's not expected to pass.

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