Oil Titans Help Give Trump an Edge Over Biden in Fundraising

(Bloomberg) -- Oil industry titans are opening their checkbooks to support Donald Trump, with Texas tycoons Syed Javaid Anwar and Jeff Hildebrand among the donors contributing to the Republican candidate’s biggest fundraising month yet.

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Anwar, the founder and chief executive officer of Midland Energy Inc., sent checks totaling $418,000 to the former president’s Save America PAC and the Republican National Committee, according to new federal campaign finance filings. Hildebrand, the billionaire CEO of Hilcorp Energy Co., and his wife Melinda Hildebrand, together sent $776,000 to Trump’s political operation during April, his first full month raising money as the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The contributions bolstered Trump’s $76 million fundraising haul in April, a sum that eclipsed President Joe Biden’s $51 million. The donations underscore the industry’s growing support behind the Republican candidate, even by oil executives, such as Anwar and Hildebrand, who initially supported other Republicans making bids for the White House. This week Trump heads to Texas to do more fundraising.

On Wednesday, oil industry leaders — including Continental Resources Inc. Chairman Harold Hamm, Occidental Petroleum Corp. Chief Executive Officer Vicki Hollub and Energy Transfer LP Chairman Kelcy Warren — are looking to raise at least $26 million for the former president’s allied super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc. — with a lunch in Houston, according to person familiar with the matter. Trump is appearing as the event speaker and “is not asking for funds or donations,” according to the invitation.

Trump has sharpened his sales pitch to the industry, promising in campaign rallies and private events that if elected he would scrap Biden’s policies encouraging electric vehicles and open more opportunities for oil drilling.

Read More: Trump Leads Biden in Monthly Campaign Fundraising for First Time

Last month, Trump made a direct appeal to oil and gas executives gathered in an energy security meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He scoffed at wind power, said he’d undo Biden environmental regulations and appealed for support, asking the group to raise $1 billion, a massive sum for any group of donors to contribute, according to people familiar with the exchange who asked not to be named because it was a closed-door session. The encounter was first reported by The Washington Post.

Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said Trump was “selling out working families to Big Oil for campaign checks.”

Shifting Allegiances

Anwar gave to Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, last year. The Hildebrands also showered much of the Republican field with cash during the GOP primary, including Haley, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Hamm, Warren and Anwar also gave to Save America, the Trump-aligned political action committee that is funding his legal bills. The former president, who faces a series of criminal indictments, is currently on trial for a case involving hush money payments to an adult film actress.

Trump has touted oil-friendly policies on the campaign trail recently, but he was an inconsistent oil industry ally during his first term, having implored the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost output, ending some policies energy companies had begged him to maintain and blocking new offshore oil leasing near southeast US states.

Even so, Trump was lionized by some oil executives for his unorthodox efforts in 2020 to bolster the industry as pandemic closures and lockdowns caused fuel demand to crater. Even though it meant lobbying for higher gasoline prices in the short term, Trump helped broker an OPEC+ production cut. His administration later contemplated paying struggling US producers to keep crude underground.

Industry Support

“In the 2020 oil war, Trump went to bat for the industry,” said Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners LLC. “That moment probably did a lot to ingratiate the Trump administration to many different stripes of producers, because at that particular point in the history no matter what kind of oil and gas company you were, it was a dire time.”

Analysts said Trump’s unpredictability may cause heartburn for oil executives making decisions on multi-decade time horizons. But, they stressed, he’s also more likely than President Joe Biden to lower taxes, dial back federal regulation and give energy companies greater access to public lands, which would outweigh the risk of more volatility.

Biden has prioritized confronting climate change and promoting alternatives to fossil fuels, while limiting offshore oil leasing and pausing new liquefied natural gas export authorizations. Biden also has presided over a domestic oil and gas boom, though industry leaders and energy experts say that’s more in spite of his policies than a product of them.

--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs.

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