Senate Democrats launch probe of oil companies as Trump’s campaign fundraising far surpasses Biden’s efforts

Rashid Husain SyedThe controversy over Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump seeking US$1 billion from oil majors for his re-election campaign in exchange for industry favours if he returns to power is failing to die down.

Powerful Senate Democrats have launched an investigation into the alleged quid pro quo offer from Trump to fossil fuel executives, media sources reported last week.

Last Thursday, the chairmen of two Senate committees sent separate letters on the issue to eight oil companies and the top fossil fuel trade group, the American Petroleum Institute. The letters from Sheldon Whitehouse, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, and Ron Wyden, the Senate Finance Committee chair, accused the companies of engaging in a quid pro quo with Trump and requested additional details about the meeting.

Lawmakers wrote to the chief executives of Cheniere Energy Inc., Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Continental Resources, EQT Corporation, Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum and Venture Global, and the president of the American Petroleum Institute.

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Whitehouse, who leads the Senate Committee on the Budget, and Wyden, head of the Senate Committee on Finance, asked the companies for copies of any draft executive orders, regulatory proposals or other policy-related documents that the companies may have created “for the purpose of potential use in a possible Trump administration.”

They also sought details of all campaign donations made by the companies or any affiliated political action committees to support Mr. Trump.

The joint inquiry is the second congressional examination of the Apr. 11 fundraising dinner. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, is also seeking similar information from the companies.

Despite the enquiries, Trump’s bid to lure material assistance from influential and ‘wealthy’ industry executives is bearing fruit.

Bloomberg reported that fossil fuel industry titans are opening their chequebooks to support Donald Trump. Jeff Hildebrand, the billionaire CEO of Hilcorp Energy Co., and the Karachi, Pakistan-born Texas energy tycoon Syed Javaid Anwar are already among the donors, contributing to the Republican candidate’s biggest fundraising month yet.

Hildebrand and his wife Melinda contributed USUS$776,000 to Trump’s campaign in April, his first full month as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Anwar, the CEO of Midland Energy Inc., also donated USUS$418,000 to Trump’s Save America PAC and the Republican National Committee, according to new federal campaign finance filings.

Despite the scrutiny of his ties with the fossil fuel industry, Trump remains closely associated with its executives while funding his presidential campaign. Last Wednesday, Dharna Noor of The Guardian reported last Wednesday that the former president attended a fundraising luncheon at Houston’s Post Oak hotel, hosted by three major oil executives.

People who attended the events and are familiar with the fundraising haul told Bloomberg that the campaign raised as much as USUS$40 million in Texas alone last week. Continental Resources chair Harold Hamm and Occidental Petroleum’s chief executive Vicki Hollub were among the attendees of the fundraising event in Houston, according to Bloomberg.

Media reports confirm that the oil industry has contributed millions to the Trump campaign, helping the presumptive Republican nominee top his rival Joe Biden’s campaign war chest in April. Bloomberg reported last week that the Trump campaign succeeded in raising a total of US$76 million last month, compared to US$51 million for Biden.

The Trump campaign has raised US$7.3 million from the oil industry since the start of the year, the New York Times reported. And industry heavyweights are organizing events to help raise even more money ahead of the November elections.

That US$7.3 million haul from the fossil fuel industry made it the fifth-largest industry donor this election cycle. In other words, Trump’s efforts to gain support from the fossil-fuel industry are paying off.

But that begs the question: if he wins, will his return to the White House next January spell the end for climate change initiatives? For now, this seems to be the reality the world might face if Trump regains power.

Toronto-based Rashid Husain Syed is a highly regarded analyst specializing in energy and politics, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. In addition to his contributions to local and international newspapers, Rashid frequently lends his expertise as a speaker at global conferences. Organizations such as the Department of Energy in Washington and the International Energy Agency in Paris have sought his insights on global energy matters.

For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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