by Matt Garrington

Last week, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) wrapped up their tour to push Big Oil’s agenda under the guise of more jobs and lower energy prices in an effort to weaken protections for our air, water, public lands and oceans.

Ironically, it turns out that the AFP tour did help promote jobs … in China. Part of the free giveaways to the few who actually showed up to the “Running on Empty” tour stops, included $20 gas cards to Diamond Shamrock and small foam gas station pumps.

It turns out the toys were a made in China (see photo). Talk about a rookie campaign mistake.

The gaffe says everything about what AFP is all about … lining the pockets of their funders like the oil refinery magnates the Koch Brothers and Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and BP… while ignoring what is actually important to western states and American families.

If AFP is going to be shilling for multinational oil companies and conservative political operatives, the least they could do is make sure the props are made in America.

The props and gifts didn’t do much for turnout. Most of the events had less than 50 people and were accompanied by an equal or greater number of opposition voices (the notable exception being the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs).

And the $20 Diamond Shamrock gas cards seems like a paltry consolation prize to the $67.4 billion in profits oil and gas companies have made in the first half of 2011 thanks to the high prices Americans have been paying them at the pump.

Even Diamond Shamrock’s parent company, Valero, continued its climb away from junk bond rating status with $744 million in Quarter 2 profits, a 28 percent increase over last year.

The facts behind AFP’s tour were also a little thin. They blamed President Obama for a doubling in gas prices. The problem is that it’s just not true. The Denver Post’s political blogger, Lynn Bartels, pointed out that gas prices topped $4 per gallon under George Bush in May 2008. The Denver Post piece also covered ProgressNow’s counter effort which pointed to the tradeoff Republicans such as Reps. Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton have asked Americans to make between funding Social Security and Medicare and Big Oil tax breaks.

When it comes down to it, the “Running On Empty” tour is about more giveaways to oil and gas companies – only this time it is in the form of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the treasured landscape of the West.

Credit should be given where credit is deserved, however. Jeff Crank of AFP did tell Coloradans that he “couldn’t be more against subsidies to Big Oil companies.” (Video courtesy of Colorado Eyes on Congress.) It’s just too bad that they are spending their money from the Koch Brothers supporting the dismantling of air, water, and land protections instead of ending $15 billion a year in special tax breaks to Big Oil which they purport to support.