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Energy industry sides with incumbents McConnell, Landrieu, Begich, boosts GOP in open Senate contests

Energy industry donors made significant investments in the re-election bids of both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) during the final months of 2013, while also opening their checkbooks to boost a trio of Republicans seeking seats where veteran Democratic senators are retiring.

According to new campaign finance reports, various oil and gas industry political action committees contributed about $50,000 to both McConnell and Landrieu, while also giving thousands to GOP candidates in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. Energy donors also backed Sen. Mark Begich (D) in fourth-quarter fundraising.

Here's a look at those contests:

Kentucky

McConnell continues to boast the largest war chest among senators seeking re-election this year, with $10.9 million in the bank at the end of 2013 as he prepares for both a GOP primary challenge and his expected matchup with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in the general election.

The Republican leader added $1.9 million to his coffers in the fourth quarter of 2013, including donations from nearly two dozen energy-related political action committees totaling around $50,000.

McConnell claimed $10,000 from the Emerson Electric PAC; $5,000 each from the BP Corp. North America PAC and the Peabody Coal PAC; $4,000 from the Sempra Energy Employees PAC; and $2,500 each from the DTE Energy Company PAC, American Electric Power PAC, Chevron Employees PAC and National Gas Propane Association PAC, among others.

Both industry PACs and individual donors employed by companies related to energy and natural resources have played a key role in building McConnell's war chest, giving the senator more than $1.1 million between 2008 and October 2013, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

While Grimes has sought to position herself as a supporter of the state's coal industry, CRP's data show the Democrat's campaign took in only $1,500 from energy and natural resources donors since she declared her candidacy last year.

While Grimes outraised McConnell in the most recent quarter, bringing in $2.1 million, she continued to raise less from energy donors. Among her most recent donations, Grimes counted $500 from Invenergy PAC. The Chicago-based company operates wind and natural gas power plants.

Grimes, who polls evenly with McConnell in head-to-head matchups despite the state's strong Republican preference, reported $3.3 million in the bank at the end of December (E&E Daily, Jan. 30).

Businessman Matt Bevin, a tea party activist who is challenging McConnell for the GOP nomination, reported $623,000 in cash on hand after raising $898,000 in the last quarter. Bevin also reported $600,000 in debt from loans he has made to his campaign.

Louisiana

Landrieu continues to maintain a lead in fundraising as she defends her Senate seat from a trio of Republican challengers, thanks in part to contributions from nearly a dozen energy industry PACs last quarter.

The Democrat, who is among Republicans' top targets this cycle as the party looks to flip the six seats it needs for a Senate majority, ended last year with $6.4 million in the bank after adding $1.3 million to her coffers in the fourth quarter.

Among her major contributors, Landrieu received $8,000 from BP Corp. North America PAC; $7,500 from NuStar Energy PAC; $7,000 from Valero PAC; and $5,000 each from the Apache Corp. PAC, Sempra Energy Employees PAC and Tesoro Petroleum PAC.

Landrieu is regularly among the top recipients of energy industry-related funds, but is expected to rake in even more contributions after taking over the Energy and Natural Resources Committee gavel last week (E&E Daily, Feb. 13).

Because Louisiana has an open primary system -- in which all candidates compete regardless of party and the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff if no candidate claims a majority -- Landrieu will face Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), state Rep. Paul Hollis (R), Entergy Corp. executive Rob Maness (R) and lesser-known candidates on Election Day in November.

While Cassidy, the Republican establishment's preferred candidate, is also typically a prime recipient of energy industry funds, he reported only one major contribution in the last quarter: $10,000 from the Murray Energy PAC.

Cassidy, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, ended December with $4.2 million in the bank after raising $1 million in the final months of the year.

Maness, who reported $132,000 in the bank at the end of 2013, did not report any energy-related PAC donations. Hollis, who declared his bid in late December, lists only a $250,000 loan to his campaign and no contributions.

Alaska

Begich is also a top GOP target this cycle as he looks to defend the seat he first won in 2008, but energy donors appear ready to back up the Democratic lawmaker.

Begich reported raising $806,000 in the fourth quarter and ending the year with $2.8 million in the bank.

He reported at least $17,000 in contributions from energy-related PACs.

Among his major contributors, Begich reported $5,000 from the Pioneer Natural Resources PAC; $2,500 each from Apache Corp. PAC and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's Action Committee for Rural Electrification; and $2,000 each from ConocoPhillips Spirit PAC and Duke Energy PAC.

Begich also recorded a $1,000 contribution from the League of Conservation Voters PAC.

Among the trio of Republicans competing for the right to face Begich in November, former Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan claimed the only energy PAC donation: $5,000 from First Energy.

Sullivan ended the year with $1.1 million in the bank after raising $1.1 million. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell reported $95,000 in cash after raising $228,000, while failed 2010 GOP nominee and attorney Joe Miller banked $232,000 after raising $30,000 in the fourth quarter.

West Virginia

In the open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D), energy industry donors are backing Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the likely GOP nominee.

Capito, who is expected to win a crowded GOP primary and is also favored in November, banked $3.7 million at the end of the year after raising $819,000 in the fourth quarter.

Capito reported $2,500 from the Marathon Oil Company Employees PAC; $1,250 from the Exxon Mobil Corp. PAC; and $1,000 each from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's ACRE, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. PAC, Chevron Employees PAC, Southern Company Employee PAC, Tenaska Employee PAC, Emerson Electric Company Good Government Fund and CMS Energy Employees for a Better Government.

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, the likely Democratic nominee, who must likewise win a contested primary, reported raising $647,000 in the fourth quarter.

Tennant, who did not list any energy PACs among her contributors, ended the year with $604,000 in the bank.

None of the other candidates in the West Virginia race has reported significant fundraising to date.

Montana

Energy industry donors are helping to fill Rep. Steve Daines' (R) bank account, as the freshman lawmaker looks to unseat newly appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) in the race to succeed ex-Sen. Max Baucus (D).

Daines, the likely GOP nominee, ended 2013 with $1.9 million in the bank after raising $831,000 in the final months of the year.

Among his contributions, Daines counted more than $20,000 from energy industry donors. He received $5,000 each from First Energy PAC and Murray Energy PAC; $2,500 each from Valero PAC and the IPAA Wildcatter's Fund; $2,000 from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's ACRE; and $1,000 each from PACs tied to Exxon Mobil, Spectra Energy, Devon Energy and WPX Energy.

Daines' GOP primary challenger, state Rep. Champ Edmunds, reported just $300 in the bank at the end of December.

Walsh, the state's lieutenant governor until his appointment to the Senate on Feb. 7, reported raising $583,000 in the fourth quarter and banking $436,000 at the end of the year.

Energy industry PACs appeared less enthusiastic about Walsh's bid, with a single $1,000 donation from the XCEL Energy Employee PAC.

Although Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) selected Walsh to replace Baucus earlier this month, following Baucus' confirmation as the U.S. ambassador to China, Walsh still faces competition in the June Democratic primary.

Former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger (D) said he will likely drop his bid ahead of the March filing deadline unless he raises significantly more cash in the next few weeks. Bohlinger reported raising $7,000 in the fourth quarter and had $4,000 in the bank Dec. 31. He also has a $15,000 debt for loans he made to his campaign.

But rancher Dirk Adams, who reported $75,000 in the bank at the end of the year, said he will continue his bid. Adams raised $103,000 in the fourth quarter including $30,000 he gave to the campaign. He also reported $41,000 in debt from loans he made to the campaign.

South Dakota

Former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) claims a healthy cash advantage in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D), banking more than triple what the likely Democratic nominee had at the end of 2013.

Rounds, the likely GOP nominee in a field of lesser-known candidates, reported $1.2 million in the bank after adding $519,000 to his coffers in the fourth quarter.

Among his donors, Rounds counted $10,000 from the Valero PAC.

Former congressional aide Rick Weiland, the top Democrat in the race, reported raising $161,000 in the same period and ending the year with $385,000 in the bank. Weiland also carries a $107,000 debt, most of which stems from a personal loan to his campaign.

Former Sen. Larry Pressler, who has abandoned the GOP to run as an independent, reported $28,000 in the bank at the end of the year, including a $25,000 loan he made to his campaign (E&E Daily, Feb. 7).

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