President Carter may be a bit late with his recent warnings about the oil industry muscling the Senate to kill his "windfall profits" tax.
If campaign contributions mean muscle -- and often they do -- the industry already has a grip on Senate sentiments, to the tune of at least $1.1 million in contributions since 1977.
Records at the Federal Election Commission show that close to half of that amount, at least $409,000, has gone to members of the pivotal Senate Finance Committee.
The Finance Committee will deal with Carter's windfall profits tax proposal after the August recess. Enormous stakes, including the fate of the president's energy proposals, hang in the balance.
If the committee moves as expected, it will dilute the House passed version of the tax -- and with it, the $146 billion in extra tax money Carter hopes to use for synthetic fuel development and aid to the poor.
Last month, after the House had watered down the windfall profits tax, Carter said it was "almost a sure thing" that the oil lobby would "focus its attention on the Senate."
As the Senate moves to take up the legislation, Carter's prediction very well may come true. But in a broader sense, oil related contributors are at least several years ahead of the president.
A review of reports filed at the FEC since 1977 by more than 50 oil related political action committees shows they have contributed at least $1.7 million to House and Senate candidates, mostly incumbents.
A breakdown of the PAC reports and other campaign records on public file at the FEC also shows that:
In 1977 and 1978, the oil related PAC'S gave $569,355 to Senate candidates.
Through the first quarter of this year, with the big spending for 1980 campaigns yet to come, the same PAC'S had given $37,175 to Senate candidates.
Individual contributors with clearly identifiable oil industry connections gave 12 of the 20 members of the Finance Committee at least $370,200 -- and probably far more than that -- in 1977, 1978 and the first quarter of 1979. Oil related PACS gave committee members $39665 more during that same period.
Although the FEC records are extensive, in many instances they reveal only the tip of the campaign finance iceberg. Individual contributors' occupations were listed, but often there is no way of easily determining if they have oil-industry connections.
An example is found in the records of Sen. David L. Boren (D Okla.), a freshman elected in 1978 who landed a coveted seat on the Finance Committee.
Boren made it a policy during his campaign to accept no money from political action committees. Records show that he returned thousands of dollars of PAC contributions as he attacked his main primary opponent, Ed Edmondson, for accepting special interest money.
At first reading, the Boren campaign committee reports on file at the FEC for 1978 leave an impression that the senator got less than 20 percent of his total contributions from individuals who clearly had oil interests.
But the Tulsa Tribune reviewed the background of each individual contributor and, in a study published last month, reported that Boren actually got about 37 percent of his primary and general election money from people with oil connections.
Boren said he did not consider it surprising that more than a third $320,000 of his total war chest of $872,107 came from special-interest donors. "Oil just reflects Oklahoma." he said. "To me being pro oil means being pro Oklahoma."
The heavy oil contributions to Boren tended to inflate and skew the totals received by 11 other Finance Committee members.
After Boren, the committee's leading receipient of oil related money was Sen. David Durenberger (R Minn); who received at least $20,300 from PACS and $23,650 from individuals clearly identified with oil related activities.
Large PAC contributions to Durenberger, elected last year in a hard fought campaign, included $3,000 from Amoco employes; $2,000 from oil well servicing firms, and $1,000 each from the Petroleum Refiners Assn. Ashland Oil, East Texas Petroleum Producers, Union Oil of California and Sun Oil.
An aide said that Durengerger in most instances was not aware that the oil related PACS were helping finance his campaign, but the money would have little to do with his views on the oil industry in any event.
"He favors the concept of windfall profit taxes," assistant Tom Horner said. "But he thinks it should be called an excise tax and that the money go into general revenues and not be earmarked for energe. He thinks the campanies are reaping windfall profits and that they should be devoting more effort to research and development and production."
Another leader in oil related receipts, not surprisingly, because he is from a major oil state and has long been identified as a booster of the industry, is committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D La.)
Although he does not face reelection until next year, Long has been collecting campaign money since 1977. FEC records through the first quarter show him with a total of $4,250 in oil related PAC money and $20,000 in individual contributions from persons clearly connected to the industry.
Other Finance Committee members and amounts received over the 1977-1979 span are Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), $3,950; Max Baucus (D Mont.), $8,695; Malcolm Wallop (R Wyo.)$8,150; Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D N.Y.), $3,050; Bill Bradley (D N.J.), $4,600; Lloyd Bentsen (D Tex.), $700; Bob Packwood (R Ore.), $1,850; H. John Heinz III (R Pa.), $1,080 and Spark M. Matsunaga (D Hawaii), $90.
Questions about a connection between the windfall profits tax and campaign contributions were raised earlier this year in a study by Congress Watch, an arm of Ralph Nader's Public Citizen group.
When the House in June watered down its Ways and Means Committee's windfall profits tax, approving an amendment by Reps. James Jones (D Okla.) and W. Henson Moore (R La.) 95 percent of the members who got more than $2,500 form oil PACS voted the industry line -- for the amendment.
Of the 236 representatives who voted for the amendment, 83 percent had received oil related PAC money.
"A campaign gift doesn't guarantee a sympathetic vote." said Mark Green, director of Congress Watch, "but based on the correlations between giving and voting, contributions clearly fertilize the soil in which industry measures flourish."