Texas energy investor T. Boone Pickens has taken an interest in Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, with both men sharing similar views on energy policy, aides say.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has surged to second place among Republican presidential candidates in national polls, impressed the GOP mega-donor when they met in September 2014 in Pickens’s Dallas offices, according to a spokesman for the wealthy Texan.
But Pickens was not the only one to leave the meeting impressed. The energy investor has a fan in Carson and will have an influence on the energy policies the candidate eventually unveils.
The Carson campaign is “still formulating [its] energy plan and speaking to different energy experts,” Carson communications director Doug Watts said in an email.
“We will be releasing more details in the future, but we are grateful that distinguished individuals like Mr. Pickens are willing to share their time and advice with us,” Watts said, adding that Carson respects Pickens for bringing “more sensibility to America’s energy policy.”
Pickens, a major Republican donor, gave $100,000 to the super-PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he gave $1 million to the American Crossroads super-PAC founded by Republican operative Karl Rove.
But as NBC news first reported, the multimillionaire investor is now also investing in outsider candidate Carly Fiorina and has plans to support Carson.
Asked what drew the Texas oilman to Carson, Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser told The Hill that Pickens “believes Dr. Carson understands the threat that our continued dependence on OPEC oil means for our country going forward.”
“Boone has an open door on pretty much every presidential candidate when it comes to a willingness to educate them on key energy issues,” Rosser added.
Pickens, who chairs the private energy investment firm BP Capital, has been promoting his Pickens Plan, which is described on its website as a “blueprint to reduce [the United States’s] dependence on OPEC oil.”
Pickens’s plan argues: “The increase in production of oil and natural gas from North American shale deposits can put America back in the driver’s seat in terms of being able to reduce our dependence on OPEC.”
“Boone’s driving objective is to eliminate the OPEC oil threat and the stranglehold it has on national security, our economy,” Rosser said.
Pickens’s energy investment firm includes a mutual fund that invests in energy companies “involved in the extraction, processing, distribution or use of natural gas, oil and coal,” according to its website.
Republican front-runner and billionaire Donald Trump — who is self-funding his campaign — has criticized candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for taking contributions from big-money donors, saying they will be “controlled” by their big-money donors once they take office.
Watts dismissed the notion that the Carson campaign — which has received more small-dollar donations from grassroots supporters than any other campaign on the Republican side — would be unduly influenced by a potentially large donation from Pickens.
“We haven’t received any donation from Mr. Pickens as yet,” Watts said. “I’ll remind you that we are relying on 675,000 donations from 325,000 donors. We welcome major donors, but we are not relying on them.”
Watts said Carson had a “wonderful chat” with Pickens last year, adding that the candidate “likes Mr. Pickens’ creative, positive and innovative thinking, on energy, and other American issues.”
“Much like Mr. Pickens, Dr. Carson believes in unleashing the energy potential that resides within this country,” Watts added in an email on Wednesday.
“As such, we are in favor of an energy policy that, among other things, promotes fracking and repeals the oil export ban,” positions Pickens holds as well.
It is unclear how generous Pickens will ultimately be toward the Carson campaign.
“Boone at this point is publicly committed to Jeb Bush,” Rosser said. “He has provided some financial support for Carly’s election efforts and has committed to give some financial support to Dr. Carson, to what level I can’t say.”
Asked whether Pickens had decided how much money to give Carson’s campaign, or whether it was still in the air, Rosser replied: “It’s still kind of in the air.”