The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents more than 450 oil and natural gas companies, has announced it will start donating to political candidates this year as President Obama aims to cut subsidies to energy companies and expand environmental laws.

"This is adding one more tool to our toolkit," Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg in an interview. "At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate."

The API spent $6.7 million to lobby Congress and the White House last year, ThinkProgress reported, making it the seventh most prolific spender in the oil and gas industry, following ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Koch Industries and BP.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard sharply criticized President Obama proposal to cut billions in subsidies to energy companies, saying it would eliminate thousands of new jobs.

"It’s no surprise the administration is proposing yet again to raise taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry," he said. "But it’s still a bad idea and comes at one of the worst times in our economic history."

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for investments into clean energy, declaring they should be paid for in part by cutting federal subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry.

Obama said the United States should get 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, though he included nuclear power, "clean coal," and natural gas as part of that standard, in addition to wind and solar.

On Thursday, Richard Ranger, a senior policy adviser at API, called on President Obama to lift drilling restrictions on Alaska's outer continental shelf.

In July 2010, Greenpeace obtained an internal memo from the API that showed the institute funded and developed a fake grassroots campaign to attack environmental legislation.

"API will provide the up-front resources," the email said. "This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns."