Oil and gas industry rushes to support Vitter gubernatorial bid

By Jennifer Yachnin | 05/06/2015 07:03 AM EDT

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) may boast the biggest war chest among those candidates vying to succeed term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) this fall, but he’s not the only contender to claim healthy support from the oil and gas industry.

A review of recently filed campaign finance reports shows Vitter dominating the money chase with $4.2 million in the bank in mid-April, after raising $1.1 million in the first months of this year.

Other contenders include Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), who reported $1.8 million in his campaign account after adding $520,000 to his coffers, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R), who reported $1.2 million in the bank after raising $642,000 through mid-April.

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State House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards, the most prominent Democrat in the race — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) announced late last month he would not make a statewide bid — reported $894,000 in his campaign coffers after raising $230,000 in recent months.

The candidates will face off in an all-party primary in October, with the top-two vote-getters heading to a November runoff if no one candidate claims a majority of the vote.

In their latest fundraising disclosures, both Vitter — the race’s expected front-runner — and Angelle showed significant contributions from oil and gas industry-related donors.

But thanks to campaign finance limits in Louisiana that restrict contributions to $5,000 per individual or entity per election — or a maximum donation of $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the runoff, if necessary — Vitter’s campaign was forced to turn back $30,000 in funds to the Texas-based Rain CII Carbon LLC.

According to a description from Rain CII Carbon President Gerard Sweeney posted on the firm’s website, the company focuses primarily on converting green petroleum coke into aluminum.

Vitter’s campaign finance report shows Rain CII Carbon provided the campaign with a $25,000 and a $5,000 check in late March but was refunded those excess contributions a day later.

The campaign finance reports show that Rain CII Carbon had already donated $5,000 ahead before the March contributions.

But Sweeney, along with two other members of the Sweeney family listed at the same address, were able to provide the Vitter campaign with another $15,000 in donations thanks to three separate $5,000 checks reported within days of the $30,000 refund.

Other donors who made the maximum $5,000 contribution to Vitter’s gubernatorial bid include Anderson Oil and Gas President William Anderson, ExxonMobil Chemical Co. President Neil Chapman, Lucas Oil Products Inc., and the Kansas-based Koch Industries, owned by billionaire GOP donors David and Charles Koch.

Vitter also found support from senior officials at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., with both CEO Richard Adkerson and Chief Administrative Officer Michael Arnold donating the maximum $5,000.

Mississippi-based Pruet Oil Co. co-owner Rick Calhoon also donated $1,000, as did Arch Coal Inc.

Other major contributions in the most recent quarter came from the Louisiana-based Boh Brothers Construction firm, which donated $5,000, while Boh Brothers President Robert Boh donated another $5,000 and Vice President Stephen Boh donated $5,000.

Bollinger Shipyards Vice President Charlotte Bollinger also appears on the list of most recent contributors to Vitter, although her $1,000 donation was returned in April when it pushed her over the $5,000 limit.

Bollinger’s brother, Boysie, acted as a major supporter for former Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D) failed re-election bid in the 2014 cycle, appearing in several commercials touting her candidacy.

While Vitter is focused on his gubernatorial bid, he also continues to leisurely raise funds for a potential 2016 re-election bid.

According to first-quarter fundraising reports, Vitter’s Senate campaign added $69,000 to its coffers in the first quarter of this year and banked $72,000 at the end of March. He would not be able to use those funds in a statewide bid, but he would need to draw on those funds if his gubernatorial aspirations fail to come to fruition.

By comparison, at this point in the 2010 cycle, Vitter reported $2.5 million in his campaign coffers, after raising $731,000 in the first quarter of 2009. Likewise, in 2014, Vitter reported raising $32,000 and ending the first quarter with $804,000 in the bank.

Still, energy industry allies are stocking Vitter’s federal campaign with funds, including a $1,000 donation from the Indiana-based Nisource PAC, $1,000 from Entergy PAC and $2,500 from the Pioneer Natural Resources PAC.

Should Vitter win the governor’s office, he will be tasked with selecting his own successor in the Senate to complete his current term. That individual — potentially one of Louisiana’s current GOP House lawmakers — would then have a strong advantage when campaigning for a full term in the Senate in the 2016 cycle.

Former regulator nets industry contributions

But Angelle, who served eight years as secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources after first being appointed to the post by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) in 2004, also claims notable contributions from the oil and gas industry.

Among the firms that maxed out to Angelle in the first months of this year are PACs related to Texas-based natural gas distributor Atmos Energy Corp. and the Texas-based electric and natural gas utility CenterPoint Energy Inc.

Other contributors who donated $5,000 include Lafayette, La.-based Energy Pipe and Equipment Rentals; Texas-based Targa Midstream Services; and Energy Solutions Technology Inc., a Connecticut-based firm that recycles and disposes of nuclear material.

Angelle also received $1,000 from Louisiana-based Omni Energy Services, $2,500 from Louisiana-based Elos Environmental and $1,000 from South Coast Gas Co.

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