Why Republican Presidential Hopefuls Receive More than $100 Million from Oil & Gas

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Getty Images

Oil and gas firms donated plenty of money to Republican presidential contenders last year. In total, Presidential Super Pacs collected about $107 million before the primary season had even started.

This has caused several groups to question the leverage that big oil would have if a Republican were elected to the White House. So far, Ted Cruz has been the highest beneficiary of all this support, raking in about $25 million or about 12% of all funds. Cruz is seen by many as having the best chance of stopping Donald Trump’s attempt at getting the Republican nomination. Plus he also rejects the mainstream view that fossil fuels cause climate change, more so than any other Republican candidate.

Source: US Federal Election Commission

Source: US Federal Election Commission

The senator from Texas is on record as saying that climate change is a fiction perpetrated by liberals to exert control over the economy. Greenpeace asserts that Cruz’s rejection of climate science is a result of his reliance on fossil fuel funding. “Ted Cruz’s complete denial of climate change science is perfectly in line with the business interests of his biggest funders. These fossil funders have made denying climate change and ignoring scientists a prerequisite for being a Republican candidate,” according to Jesse Coleman, a Greenpeace oil and gas campaigner.

The Cruz campaign reiterated the senator’s position through a spokeswoman, “Regarding climate change, Cruz’s position is very simple. The data does not back up the theory.” Jesse Coleman meanwhile thinks that even if Cruz loses the nomination, it is unlikely Republicans will give up on the climate denial stance. “While Donald Trump, also a climate change denier, is mostly self-funded for now, he will look to the fossil fuel industry for political support if he wins the nomination. Mr. Trump also has millions of dollars directly invested in the fossil fuel industry,” stated Coleman.

Several oil and gas money beneficiaries have already dropped from the primary races. Chris Christie, who dropped out after disappointing results in New Hampshire, got 39% of his Super Pac money from oil and gas interests. Jeb Bush, once the favorite and the establishment candidate, saw 26% of his Super Pac fund coming from the oil and gas industry. The former governor of Florida’s campaign failed to gain any traction beyond single digits and has been halted as a result. Marco Rubio, who finally picked up his first primary victory on Super Tuesday, decisively has gotten 23% of his Super Pac funded by oil and gas firms.

Altogether the $107 million in donations for 2015 came from 124 billionaires or businesses that gave a minimum of $100,000 to each Republican hopeful so far through support groups or Super Pacs. Super Pacs can accept unlimited campaign donations since they operate outside of the official campaigns. Oil and gas money has always favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has however started to become favored as about 7% of her Super Pac funding has come from mega-rich fossil fuel donors. Both Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have criticized her for this.

This flow of campaign funds can reveal unseen powers behind the different Republican campaigners, like the Cruz campaign. Cruz’s rejection of the scientific mainstream on climate change has made him the biggest beneficiary of fossil fuel money. Led by the Wilks family from Texas, which made its fortune making fracking equipment for oil and gas wells, has donated about $15 million to a Cruz Super Pac.

Toby Neugebauer, son of Texas Republican Congressman Randy Neugebauer and co-founder of Quantum Energy Partners, gave $10 million to the Cruz Super Pac. The Kochs, big major funders of conservative causes in the US donated $11.9 million to the Cruz Super Pac, compared to Rubio, who received $7.8 million.

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