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By Julie Kliegman May 1, 2014

Senate Majority PAC says Scott Brown got $400K in 'big oil' contributions

The Senate Majority PAC is going all out fighting attacks on Democratic candidates by libertarian businessmen Charles and David Koch. The group’s latest target is former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who is now trying to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

"Scott Brown’s carrying some big oil baggage," the narrator says in an April 27 TV ad. "In Massachusetts, he voted to give oil companies big tax breaks. They make record profits. He collects over $400,000 in campaign contributions."

We already fact-checked Brown’s "big oil" votes. Here we’ll take a closer look at the breakdown of contributions to his campaign.

The Senate Majority PAC pointed us to OpenSecrets.org, a website run by the independent Center for Responsive Politics that tracks money in politics. The site tracks donations of at least $200 to show how money impacts congressional elections.

OpenSecrets logs $455,760 in campaign contributions from oil and gas industry donors for Brown over the course of his career, according to the most recent data available. That’s the 15th most popular area Brown receives donations from. The biggest sectors Brown receives money from are retired individuals, securities and investment, lawyers and law firms, and real estate, each of which account for at least $1 million.

OpenSecrets defines oil and gas companies as "multinational and independent oil and gas producers and refiners, natural gas pipeline companies, gasoline service stations and fuel oil dealers."

That categorization includes what some people would consider "big oil": the political action committees and top executives of companies like Exxon and BP. But it also includes smaller, independent companies, and low-level individuals who happen to work for an oil company.

In fact, by the center’s definition, global "big oil" companies only accounted for $52,550 of the $455,760 total. That’s just 11.5 percent.

In addition, the ad makes it sound like the companies themselves are donating. Overall, $168,000 came from PACs -- which pool the money of employees and donate it in the employer’s name -- but the rest comes from individuals associated with oil and gas companies. The reasons for an individual’s donation may have everything or nothing to do with the industry’s policy agenda.

Our ruling

The Senate Majority PAC ad said that "Scott Brown’s carrying some big oil baggage" because he "collected over $400,000 in campaign contributions."

Independently collected data shows that Brown received at least $455,760 in donations from donors associated with the oil and gas industry. However, the ad’s wording is somewhat misleading, since just 11.5 percent of that total came from PACs and individuals affiliated with the biggest multinational companies -- what viewers would reasonably consider "big oil."

On balance, we rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Email interview with Colin Reed, Scott Brown campaign spokesman, April 29, 2014

Email interview with Doug Weber, Center for Responsive Politics, April 30, 2014

Email interview with Ty Matsdorf, Senate Majority PAC spokesman, April 29, 2014

OpenSecrets, "Oil & gas," accessed April 29, 2014

OpenSecrets, "Sen. Scott Brown," accessed April 29, 2014

Senate Majority PAC says Scott Brown got $400K in 'big oil' contributions

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