Image: WikiMedia Commons

Image: Creative Commons

The world’s largest public relations firm has officially ended its relationship with the American Petroleum Institute (API), the largest U.S. trade association for the oil and natural gas industry.

The partnership between Edelman and API began in 2005, but it has only been since 2008 that the IRS has required trade associations to disclose their lobbying finances. Between 2008 and 2012, API paid the PR giant $327.4 million for advertising and public support campaigns. Documents obtained by The Nation show that these campaigns encompassed “multiple websites and online advertising efforts asking officials to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, support tax deductions for the oil industry and expand access for drilling on public lands.” Edelman was paid another $33 million in 2013.

Corporate Watch alleges that Edelman would also “astroturf” on behalf of the oil and gas lobby, or create fake grassroots organizations to support various fossil fuel endeavors, such as exporting American coal to China.

The Climate Investigations Center reports that the API contract was worth over 10 percent of Edelman’s global revenue in 2010.

The breakup between Edelman and API was first announced by The Holmes Report, the leading source in PR industry news and events, but as of this writing neither entity has declared an official reason.

It may be a matter of conscience, or more likely one of PR.

When several leading public relations firms declared that they would not represent climate change deniers last year, Edelman was singled out by The Guardian for its notable absence. Later that week, Edelman jumped on the bandwagon.

“Edelman fully recognizes the reality of, and science behind, climate change,” read a statement on the firm’s website, “and believes it represents one of the most important global challenges facing society, business and government today. To be clear, we do not accept client assignments that aim to deny climate change.”

Michael Bush, a spokesman for Edelman, would go on to explain that, when The Guardian initially reached out to the firm, “that position was not fully shared.”

Edelman itself will no longer represent API but its subsidiary, Blue Advertising (which handled most of Edelman’s API work anyway), will continue to do so after being divested from its parent company.

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