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Executives due at gas price hearing gave $1 million to parties, candidates

One CEO has given $469,000 since 1993, public records show

Gas prices are displayed at the Exxon station on Capitol HIll on March 15.
Gas prices are displayed at the Exxon station on Capitol HIll on March 15. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The six oil and gas executives scheduled to testify on price gouging before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday morning have together given more than $1 million in personal contributions to candidates and political parties since the 1990s, skewing heavily toward Republican causes, federal records show.

A CQ Roll Call review of Federal Election Commission filings on the six executives found Scott Sheffield, who is CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources and a board member of the Williams Companies, a natural gas company, has given the most of the group: about $469,000 to political campaigns and committees since 1993.

Of that total, he gave approximately $346,000 to Republican candidates for offices or GOP-aligned committees, such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee or the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Chevron CEO Michael Wirth gave about $255,000 since 2003, while Exxon CEO Darren Woods donated roughly $197,000 since 2014 and Richard Muncrief, the president and CEO of Devon Energy, contributed approximately $115,000 to federal candidates and political campaigns since 2012.

Donations from the other two witnesses, BP America Inc. Chairman and President David Lawler (about $25,700 since 2017) and Shell USA President Gretchen Watkins ($6,700 since 2012), are far smaller than what the other four witnesses gave.

All six are witnesses in a hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday on price gouging and gasoline prices, a subject that has drawn significant Capitol Hill attention following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and multiple planned sales of U.S.-held crude oil from the country’s national reserve of petroleum.

Four of the six executives — Woods of Exxon, Lawler of BP, Wirth of Chevron and Watkins of Shell — appeared in October before a House Oversight subcommittee to answer questions about the role of large oil companies in muddling the science of climate change.

President Joe Biden unveiled a series of steps Friday that he said would lower gasoline prices, including the release of 1 million barrels of oil a day on average for 180 days from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the full committee, said Monday afternoon that H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser to former President Donald Trump, will appear as a GOP witness at the Wednesday hearing.

Spokespeople for Democrats on the committee did not respond when asked what criteria were used to call these six witnesses.

Taken together, the executives have given about $1.10 million since the 1990s, CQ Roll Call found in its review, which used all available FEC data.

Personal contributions

CQ Roll Call reviewed only personal contributions and did not consider donations the executives’ companies made through political action committees, or PACs, in federal campaigns.

While none of the executives appear to have donated to members of the subcommittee, some have donated to several of the election campaigns of members of the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

Shell’s Watkins has given $5,700 to Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, since 2020, while Lawler gave $2,000 to committees associated with Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., in 2018.

“Shell does not make political contributions,” said company spokesman Curtis Smith. “Any contributions made by Gretchen Watkins to an individual candidate would be considered personal in nature, as would her rationale for doing so.”

Josh Hicks, a BP spokesman, declined to comment. Lawler has given about $26,000 since 2017, but about $22,000 of that went to his parent company’s political action committee.  

“Chevron employees at all levels of the company are free to participate in the political process, including through donations to candidates of both major U.S. parties,” Chevron spokesperson Braden Reddall said.

Representatives of the other three companies did not respond to emails and a voicemail seeking comment.

In 2015, Sheffield gave $10,800 to a joint fundraising committee established by Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, a high-ranking Republican on the full committee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Sheffield also gave $5,400 to Upton’s reelection in 2016.

In 2020, Sheffield gave $5,000 to Texas Reloaded, a joint fundraising effort for Rep. Daniel Crenshaw, R-Texas, and $833 to Crenshaw’s campaign. Crenshaw is a full committee member.

Sheffield also donated $12,700 to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Total donations from the oil and gas industry in the 2022 election cycle, including money from individuals, PACs and what’s known as “soft money,” are skewing sharply toward Republicans, drawing 76 percent of donations versus 24 percent for Democrats, according to campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.

That percentage is higher for Democrats than it was in the election cycles of 2014, 2016 and 2018, when Republicans drew 87 percent of the donations, and 2020, which saw GOP candidates and causes get 84 percent of cash from this industry.

Soft money is the term for contributions meant to support general political parties rather than a specific candidate.

While many of the group’s donations went to Republicans, oil-state Democratic senators and House members, including former Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, were on the receiving end of some donations.

Sheffield donated to all three, as well as to Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., who got $5,800 in donations in 2021 for his campaign.

Out of all of Woods’ donations, none went to Democrats and about $156,300 went to Republican campaigns or committees.

Since 2013, Woods has donated $42,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money for Republican House candidates and describes itself as “a political committee devoted to increasing the number of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

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