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Donors from the oil and gas industry gave $190,000 to the campaign of Herschel Walker, the Republican running for U.S. Senate in Georgia.
The amount represents less than 1% of $58 million in donations.
Groups and people with ties to the oil and gas industry also donated to outside groups, including the Senate Leadership Fund, that have supported Walker.
The League of Conservation Voters for decades has published a "dirty dozen" campaign to target candidates who side against the group’s environmental agenda. This year’s list includes Herschel Walker, the Republican running for U.S. Senate in Georgia.
The league says on its website that Walker’s campaign "is heavily funded by the oil and gas industry, raking in more than $140,000 in donations from Big Oil and other energy interests in the short time he’s been a candidate."
The league is supporting incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in the Dec. 6 runoff.
The league’s statement about the amount of donations to Walker’s campaign is in the ballpark. Although $140,000 sounds like a lot, it’s a small fraction of the millions he has raised. As of mid-November, Walker has raised $58 million.
In the bigger picture, oil and gas industry entities or workers have significantly donated to outside groups that support Walker. And Warnock has raised about $150 million — $107,066 from people in the oil and gas industry.
The League of Conservation Voters cited data from Open Secrets, a nonpartisan research group that tracks federal money in politics. One way Open Secrets analyzes the donations is to show how many dollars were given by donors who work in certain top industries, including oil and gas.
The oil and gas category includes donations by people including multinational producers, natural gas distributors or liquid propane dealers. Although donations could be from anyone who works in the industry, they typically come from executives.
The industry gives most of its campaign contributions to Republicans — although U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the top individual recipient during the 2021-22 cycle.
Walker received $190,000 from the oil and gas industry, as of Oct. 28, Open Secrets’ analysis showed. The League of Conservation Voters’ figure of $140,000 comes from the total in July.
People who donate to political candidates must list their occupation and employer if they give more than $200. Sometimes donors don’t provide that information.
Warnock’s top industry donations were from individuals who said they were retirees; or from Democratic or liberal PACs or mostly individuals who associate with that ideology; or donors who worked in education.
Walker’s top industries include $6.7 million from retirees, $1.6 million from donors aligned with Republicans or conservatives, and $1 million from the real estate sector. That means that the $190,000 from the oil and gas industry is on the lower end of his industry donations.
Walker has raised about $58 million, but only about $13.6 million of those donations are reflected on Open Secrets’ industry analysis. Why the difference? The industry analysis includes only the top industries, and some donors’ occupations aren’t listed. (There is also a slight difference in the dates of the data — the industry analysis is based on Federal Election Commission records available as of Oct. 28, while the total raised reflects reports through Nov. 16. It takes time for Open Secrets to classify donations by industry.)
However we slice it, oil and gas donations to Walker’s campaign account for a small percentage of his campaign donations. The oil and gas industry donations account for about 1% of the donations analyzed by industry, or about 0.3% of his total donations. In both scenarios, the donations don’t add up to the "heavily funded" description cited by the League of Conservation Voters.
There have been sizable donations from oil and gas interests to outside political action committees, and some of those donations can be directly tied to Walker’s race:
The American Petroleum Institute gave $1 million to the Senate Leadership Fund on Nov. 15. The Senate Leadership Fund, a group aligned with the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, is spending about $14 million on ads in the Senate runoff in support of Walker.
Trevor Rees-Jones, the founder of Chief Oil & Gas, and his wife, Jan gave $100,000 in March to 34N22, a PAC that supports Walker. The PAC has spent about $6.1 million. Trevor also gave $14,500 directly to Walker’s campaign.
What about Warnock? Open Secrets’ data shows that oil and gas was not a top industry donor to the senator, but he has received some donations: $107,066 in the midterm cycle. Open Secrets said $16,180 of that amount can be attributed to Warnock’s previous runoff election in January 2021.
We asked League of Conservation Voters spokesperson Emily Samsel why it called out the donations to Walker and not Warnock. "The difference is whether or not a candidate is willing to do the fossil fuel industry’s bidding," she said.
Warnock supported the Inflation Reduction Act, which invests in renewable energy, and has called for reducing U.S. reliance on fossil fuels. That’s different from the stance taken by Walker, who said, "What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars, 'cause we got the good emissions under those cars."
The League of Conservation voters said Walker "is heavily funded by the oil and gas industry, raking in more than $140,000 in donations from Big Oil and other energy interests."
The league pulled the number in July from Open Secrets, a reliable source of federal campaign finance data. The amount of direct donations from the oil and gas industry to Walker’s campaign is now about $190,000.
The claim could mislead voters into thinking that Walker has outsized support from the oil and gas industry. Viewed in the context of overall donations, that’s not the case. The money from oil and gas-aligned groups and employees amount to less than 1% of donations to his campaign — far from "heavily." Oil and gas interests have donated bigger bucks to PACs that support Walker. Warnock has also taken money from the oil and gas industry, although less than Walker.
We rate this statement Half True.
League of Conservation Voters, Herschel Walker, Accessed Nov. 28, 2022
Open Secrets, Summary of oil and gas donations, 2022
Open Secrets, 34N22, 2022
Open Secrets, Raphael Warnock top industry donations, 2022
EE News, Oil companies helping fund Republican takeover plans, Oct. 26, 2022
Senate Leadership Fund, SLF Announces $14.2 Million Investment in Georgia Runoff, Nov. 15, 2022
Federal Election Commission, report from the Senate Leadership Fund, Nov. 24, 2022
Federal Election Commission, Donations by Trevor Rees-Jones to 34N22 and Herschel Walker, 2022
Federal Election Commission, Donations by American Petroleum Institute to Senate Leadership Fund, 2022
Telephone interview, Anna Massoglia, Open Secrets editorial and investigations manager, Nov. 28, 2022
Email interview, Emily Samsel, League of Conservation Voters spokesperson, Nov. 28, 2022
Email interview, Jack Pandol, Senate Leadership Fund spokesperson, Nov. 29, 2022
Email interview, Brendan Glavin, Open Secrets senior data analyst, Nov. 28, 2022
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