If Republicans win a majority in either the House or Senate in next month’s midterm elections, they’ll have the oil and natural gas industry to thank — at least to some degree.
Oil and gas companies have been among the top donors to the Congressional Leadership Fund and Senate Leadership Fund since early last year, federal campaign disclosures show.
The organizations are closely affiliated with Republican congressional leaders and, as super-political action committees, can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to campaign for and against candidates so long as they do not coordinate directly with the candidates or their campaigns.
Republicans are eager to pursue policies that favor the oil and gas industry, including more federal land leasing and fewer climate restrictions. The GOP also plans to use committee gavels to pressure government officials against President Joe Biden’s green agenda.
The CLF and SLF have spent more in elections in the midterm cycle than any other organization, federal records show, as the GOP seeks to maximize gains in an election year when the president’s party is expected to fare poorly. CLF has spent at least $136 million, and SLF has spent at least $180 million.
Records show that Chevron Corp. has donated $3 million to CLF as of September 30, the latest information available, making it one of the top contributors.
Other oil and gas interests are not far behind. The American Petroleum Institute, refining and industrial conglomerate Koch Industries Inc., and pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners LP each contributed $2 million to CLF, as did OTA Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of pipeline company Enterprise Products Partners LP , making them among CLF’s largest donors to the organization. Drilling company Occidental Petroleum Corp. donated $1 million.
Occidental’s $4 million donation to SLF was among the top donors from the Super PAC — although the No. 1 was One Nation, an SLF-affiliated nonprofit that can accept donations without disclosing the donors . Chevron donated $2.75 million to SLF, $1.5 million to Koch, and $1 million each to OTA and API.
Interests in fossil fuels have long favored Republicans in their donations. But this cycle’s oil and gas donations to Republican-leaning super-PACs are particularly noteworthy because they have overshadowed most other interests.
Neither company made donations to the House Majority PAC or the Senate Majority PAC, the Democrats’ super PACs, although some of them have also made small donations to individual Democrats or groups such as the Democratic Governors Association.
Super PACs, made possible by two 2010 Supreme Court decisions, give companies the opportunity to contribute unprecedented amounts of money to campaigns.
You can still set up regular PACs to donate directly to candidates’ campaigns, but there are limits on those donations, including a cap of $5,800 per candidate — much smaller than what some large corporations and wealthy individuals give to Super -Give PACs.
Environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters have also dramatically increased their election spending for Democrats via Super PACs over the past decade (E&E dailyOct. 11).
Disclosed donations may not tell the full story of oil and gas donations. Businesses can also donate to nonprofit organizations like One Nation and the GOP’s American Action Network.
Fossil fuel companies were initially skeptical that Super PAC donations were a good idea, but many have since moved on, said Stephen Brown, an energy policy adviser and former lobbyist.
“I think they are smart business investments. Totally justifiable,” he said.
Brown also sees logic in reserving the big donations for Republicans, who have long been far friendlier to fossil fuel companies than Democrats. The two top GOP leaders in the House of Representatives — Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana — hail from the major oil-producing states and districts.
“What’s the point of contributing for a Democrat when you’re investing in fossil fuels? There is no positive side. The only justification is if you think they will go easy on you. But they will never make it easy for you because it is not in their interest politically,” he said. “It’s a pretty easy decision, honestly.”
The GOP’s super PACs have used at least some of the money they received to advance the fossil fuel industry’s priorities, increase oil and gas drilling and thwart proposals to limit fossil fuel development and use.
A CLF television ad said that Yadira Caraveo, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s 8th Circuit, “proudly authored a bill that could eliminate thousands of energy jobs in Colorado and voted to increase the gas tax,” which ” threatened the livelihoods of families already struggling to survive putting food on the table or filling up the tank to get to work.”
Caraveo is up against Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer for the newly created seat.
An ad from SLF said Democrat Tim Ryan, a congressman running for Ohio’s Senate seat, supports “a Green New Deal that would send energy prices skyrocketing in Ohio.”
Ryan takes on Republican JD Vance.
Asked about the donations, API said they align with the group’s political priorities.
“API supports candidates on both sides of the aisle who support our industry and who understand that the private sector and government must work together to unlock investment in America, create new energy gateways, and avoid harmful policies and double regulation,” Amanda Eversole , the group’s executive vice president and chief advocacy officer said in a statement.
Chevron similarly defended its posts.
“Chevron makes political contributions to support candidates who advocate responsible development of energy resources, an adequate regulatory system, economic development and free enterprise. Our contributions are in accordance with the law,” said spokesman Bill Turenne, noting that the company regularly discloses its political donations and membership dues.
Others did not respond to requests for comment.