Big oil pumps record-breaking $1.2 million into Louisiana Democrat’s campaign tank

Associated Press

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has accepted more than $1.2 million in campaign funding from the oil and gas industries throughout her career, according to the Center for Progressive Politics.

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Approximately $456,300 of those contributions flowed in during 2013 as Landrieu acted as a major proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, repeatedly calling on the White House to approve the permits.

“I don’t think anyone could survive very long in Louisiana politics by being an opponent of the oil and gas industry,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of Rothenberg Political Report, in an interview with Rare.

Louisiana houses the Western Hemisphere’s greatest concentration of crude oil refineries, natural gas processing plants and petrochemical production facilities, according to the state’s Division of Administration.

The Pelican State’s plethora of oil refineries could reap immense economic benefits from the pipeline that would stretch from Alberta, Canada to eastern Texas, including 43,000 domestic jobs, Landrieu has said.

Democratic Senators from states that are expected to hold parts of the pipeline have a special bargaining chip for the upcoming election.

Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Warner of Virginia have backed Keystone and, in turn, been well-received by House and Senate Republicans as the support could help the Senate pass legislation that would pressure the president to approve the permits.

“Obviously, we welcome their support because it’s a bipartisan issue. It’s been clearly stated, more than 15,000 times on the impacts of the project and that it will create jobs,” said Larry Farnsworth, communications director for Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. Last March, the Energy Committee member introduced the Northern Route Approval Act, as a means of harnessing necessary permits to begin the project.

Landrieu sits atop a fundraising goldmine. Fellow Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, a first-term Republican, said — in order to run for governor — he will not seek a second term in 2016. The decision made Landrieu, already the senior of the pair, the focus among oil allies.

For example, Senators take in an average of $26,820 in lifetime contributions from energy-affiliated groups. Among former and current Senate Democrats, only President Obama has received more contributions, nesting $1.8 million prior to his White House bid.

Oil and gas are currently the third highest supporters of Landrieu’s 2014 campaign for a fourth term, bringing in more than $177,000, according to Open Secrets records.

Landrieu has consistently voted to benefit big oil.

During the 112th Congress, she joined Republicans in voting against Senate Bill 940, which would have eliminated government subsidies and closed big-oil tax loopholes.

In 2012, Landrieu helped push the Restore Act, which funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in fines from British Petroleum’s 2010 oil spill back to the Gulf Coast.

The move granted her favor among environmentalists because it brought coastal restoration to Louisiana. Those same preservationists are not happy about her new role, noted the Times-Picayune.

The Senate this week is expected to confirm her as the new chair of the coveted Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will transfer chairmanships to Senate Finance in the wake of current chairman Max Baucus’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to China.

“I think Landrieu benefited from being a member, and now chairwoman, of the Energy Committee,” said Gonzales. “I don’t think that every campaign contribution results in a legislative action. But there’s no question that these companies believe that contributions to members of Congress gives them a voice and a place at the table.”

Landrieu also serves as Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair and is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

Her positioning — including her brother Mitch Landrieu’s foothold as mayor of New Orleans — has helped her take in more than $9 million this cycle. The Shreveport Times predicted special-interest groups and national political parties will spend millions on the race.

The GOP competition — U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy — is a serious contender, after last week’s Harper poll showed 50 percent of Louisiana residents do not favor Landrieu.

Rothenberg Political Report has rated the November race a pure toss-up.

Landrieu’s media office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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