The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline bill in the Senate last month may have been viewed as a blow to Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s re-election bid, but her battle to get the bill passed was warmly received by members of the oil and gas industry, including Keystone’s parent company.
And not only have corporate PACs, top executives and lobbyists in the industry stepped up with large checks for the embattled Landrieu’s campaign in recent days, but so have many of her fellow Democrats, including a number of liberal New England senators who voted against the legislation.
It will be weeks before there’s a final tally of all the contributions to Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who face each other in a runoff this Saturday (Dec. 6). But each campaign has filed several lengthy reports listing hundreds of donors in recent days. From Oct. 16 to Nov. 16, according to filings made today, Cassidy raised $2.1 million to Landrieu’s $1.5 million. Landrieu raised money quickly in the wake of the Nov. 18 Keystone vote, bringing in at least $807,900 since the day before the vote, but Cassidy gained and has raised at least $983,000 in the same time frame.
Landrieu’s last-minute drive for support has relied mainly on wealthy individuals from Louisiana — along with a smattering of New York high-society donors — and strong backing from oil companies and liberal Democratic politicians. Cassidy, on the other hand, picked up large checks only from a handful of ideologically driven PACs and reliable out-of-state partisan individuals until the last few days, when he disclosed receiving a flood of money from GOP establishment figures, like soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), and some prominent brand name corporate PACs, like Aetna,American Airlines and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
While full data on fundraising and spending by each campaign is only available through Nov. 16, FEC rules require that during the period within 20 days of an election, candidates report any donations of $1,000 or more within 48 hours of receiving them.
The Nov. 18 Senate vote on a bill to approve the controversial Keystone project featured Landrieu front and center. Despite opposition elsewhere, the pipeline is popular in Louisiana, where oil and gas is a major industry and employer. The bill failed, and many pundits portrayed it as a defeat for Landrieu in her bid for re-election. But several big names in the oil and gas world seemed grateful.
According to filings made late last month, on the day before the vote, BP‘s corporate PAC gave Landrieu’s campaign $5,000. On Nov. 18, Martin Durbin, president of trade group America’s Natural Gas Alliance, personally gave her campaign $1,000, and the group’s PAC followed up with $5,000 more. Two days after the vote failed, the American Petroleum Institute‘s PAC contributed $5,000, as did ConocoPhilips‘ corporate PAC. The corporate PAC of Chevron, a company known for its conservative political leanings, and the PAC of natural gas giant Sempra also contributed following the vote, as did the Interstate Natural Gas Association. TransCanada, the parent company of the KeystoneXL project,reported giving Landrieu $2,500 on Nov. 24.
Landrieu has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from other corporate PACs that represent major interests in Washington, particularly in natural resources and energy: American Electric Power, Exelon, Freeport-McMoran and Edison Electric.
Many of these companies tend to shy away from giving to Democratic candidates, and an endangered one in a race that conventional wisdom says may already be lost wouldn’t seem to be a great bet. The American Petroleum Institute’s PAC has given 85 percent of its money to Republicans this cycle; Chevron’s PAC has given 84 percent of its contributions to GOP candidates; and Freeport McMoran’s PAC has given 68 percent of its money to Republicans.
Adding to the unusual nature of Landrieu’s fundraising is the fact that at the same time oil and gas companies were shoveling money into her campaign, many of her Democratic Senate colleagues were voting down the very bill those companies supported — and then apparently leaving the floor to write large checks to support her.
In the days after the Keystone vote, Landrieu collected checks from the leadership PACs of Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.),Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Maria Cantwell(Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and others — all Democrats who voted against the pipeline.
Most of Landrieu’s individual donations come from Louisiana addresses, with the notable exception of several dozen large checks from people in a very small geographic area of Manhattan — specifically the tony Upper East Side. Those society-name donors include William Lauder and heiresses Kate Whitney and Agnes Gund (who listed her occupation as “philanthropist”); their gifts may be linked to a fundraiser hosted by Hillary Clinton for Landrieu in New York shortly before Thanksgiving.
Cassidy’s Strong Finish
While Landrieu was raking in big checks from oil and gas companies as the Keystone bill went down in flames, Cassidy’s fundraising seemed stagnant. In a filing submitted on Nov. 19, covering the days just around the vote, Cassidy reported raising just $67,500 from large donors — compared to Landrieu’s filing on Nov. 20 listing $179,400. At that time, most of Cassidy’s donors were individuals and from out-of-state. In fact, his Nov. 19 filing is dominated by members of the DeVos clan — the conservative Michigan family led by Richard Devos, the founder of Amway. Richard Devos, his son Dick Devos and seven other members of the family each gave Cassidy checks for the maximum $2,600 for the runoff.
In contrast to Landrieu’s flood of support from her Senate colleagues, the only congressional leadership PAC giving to Cassidy then was the one sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). The next filing, on Nov. 21, was similarly lackluster, showing just $99,400 in large donations.
But Cassidy’s efforts got a sudden boost that showed up in his Nov. 24 report listing $254,900 in large contributions. The impetus may have been a donation from McConnell’s leadership PAC. Whatever led to the sudden outpouring of mainstream support for Cassidy, it was a turnabout.
In that filing, Cassidy reported donations from major corporate PACs like Aetna, Altria, American Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Devon Energy and Caterpillar. He also picked up donations from the corporate PAC of Oxbow Carbon — the company led by the “other” Koch brother, Bill Koch, who also donated personally. Additionally, Cassidy logged checks from GOP Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.)
The flood of donations increased with two even larger filings made on Dec. 1, covering the days around Thanksgiving. Donors listed in those documents include more big corporate PACs, such as those of America’s Health Insurance Plans andHumana, as well as much more leadership PAC cash from the likes of Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Chuck Grassley(Iowa).
Saturday’s vote will finally decide how large the Republicans’ majority will be as they take control of the Senate in January — 53 votes or 54.