Chevron gives $2.5 million to conservative super PAC

Chevron is by far the largest Fortune 500 company to make a super PAC contribution.

The dearth of large contributions being made by big corporations to super PACs so far this election has ended.

Chevron Corp., ranked No. 3 on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies, made a $2.5 million contribution on Oct. 7 to the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the House and Senate.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which allowed corporate money to be spent on elections, there were predictions that companies would tap their treasuries and flood races with unlimited cash.

Instead, the bulk of the giving has come from individuals — like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and wife Miriam gave at least $14.5 million in the first 17 days of October, boosting his total giving to the controversial political organizations to a remarkable $53 million. It would take 10,600 contributions of $5,000, the maxiumum allowed to candidates, for Adleson to reach that amount were he giving directly to campaigns.

Super PACs filed their final reports before the Nov. 6 election on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. Adelson is far and away the biggest donor to the organizations this election cycle.

Chevron, the No. 2 oil and gas company in the U.S. with 2011 revenue of nearly a quarter-trillion dollars, is active in nearly every aspect of the energy business, including the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a means of extracting natural gas from shale deposits.

The company spent $9.5 million lobbying the federal government in 2011 and $5.3 million so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Chevron becomes at least the fifth Fortune 500 company to give to super PACs this election, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of corporate giving, and by far, the largest. Others include Florida-based Fidelity National Information Services (425th), which gave the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future $75,000; CONSOL Energy (399th), which donated $150,000 to the group; Alpha Natural Resources (356th), which gave $100,000 to American Crossroads; and Caesars Entertainment Corp. (288th), which gave $150,000 to Majority PAC.

Chevron’s donation to the Congressional Leadership Fund represented the bulk of the group’s receipts for the reporting period. The super PAC took in $3.1 million through the first part of October, entering the home stretch with $8.7 million in the bank.

The Adelsons gave $10 million to Restore Our Future over the reporting period, bringing the organization’s receipts to a whopping $20.2 million, more than it raised for the entire month of September.

Restore Our Future also benefitted from $1 million from Jerry Perenchio, former owner of Spanish-language broadcast company Univision; $1 million from super donor Harold Simmons; $1 million from real estate mogul Edward St. John; and $1 million from hedge fund pioneer Julian Robertson.

Restore Our Future’s fundraising easily eclipsed that of Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting President Barack Obama, which brought in $13 million. The pro-Obama group had outraised Restore Our Future for the past two months.

Priorities received seven $1 million contributions all from individual donors. They include Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga, the online game maker, hedge fund billionaire George Soros* and LinkedIn founder Reid Garrett Hoffman.

Restore reported $24.2 million in cash going into the home stretch while Priorities had $10.1 million, according to FEC records.

In the final months of campaign, more super PACs dedicated to the election of U.S. House and Senate candidates have emerged.

Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition, a super PAC supporting Republican Rep. Allen West in Florida’s 18th District, received $1 million from the Adelsons. So did Freedom PAC, which supports Rep. Connie Mack’s quest for U.S. Senate in Florida.

Adelson is also helping former Virginia Gov. and Sen. George Allen in the state. Allen lost a close race to Sen. Jim Webb, the Democrat, in 2006, who is not running for re-election. He faces former Gov. Tim Kaine in a close race for the Senate seat.

Adelson gave $1.5 million to Independence Virginia, which is supporting Allen. The couple also gave $1 million to Joe Ricketts’ Ending Spending Action Fund, a super PAC that supports fiscally conservative candidates.

Ending Spending, which has promised to spend at least $12 million in the weeks leading up to the election, reported $4 million in cash on hand. While it has only raised $1 million so far in October, its founder Ricketts gave more than $11 million to the super PAC in September.

American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, brought in $11.7 million in the first part of October, thanks largely to a $4 million contribution from super donor Simmons and $1 million each from Texas homebuilder Bob Perry and oil man and hedge fund chief T. Boone Pickens, another Texan.

American Crossroads had $6.4 million in the bank as of Oct. 17.

Democratic donors also kept their checkbooks open in October. Fred Eychaner, the CEO of Newsweb Corp., gave $2 million to House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic U.S. House candidates, and $2 million to Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats.

Majority PAC took in $9.9 million, including a $1 million contribution from Tennessee real estate mogul Franklin Haney and $900,000 from Arnold Hiatt, the former president of the Stride Rite footwear company.

It reported $7.5 million cash on hand as of Oct. 17.

Hiatt also gave $900,000 to House Majority PAC, which raised $6.7 million and had $5.2 million on hand as of Oct. 17.

In other outside spending news:

  • The Democratic Senatorial Congressional Committee reported spending $8.5 million opposing Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.
  • The Republican National Committee reported spending $5.2 million opposing Obama, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee reported spending $7.8 million opposing Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate.
  • Conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS reported spending $3.7 million opposing Obama and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate and House in several races.
  • Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Senate Democrats, reported spending $3.1 million opposing Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Montana, Indiana, Nevada, Virginia and New Jersey.
  • House Majority PAC reported spending $2.3 million opposing Republicans in numerous races. The super PAC released three news ads: “False Start” opposes Richard Tisei, the Republican candidate in Massachusetts’ 6th District; “Person” opposing Randy Altschuler, the Republican candidate in New York’s 1st District, and “Our Choice,” supporting Bill Enyart, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 12th District.
  • Women Vote!, a pro-abortion rights super PAC, reported spending $1 million opposing Republican House and Senate candidates.
  • Ending Spending Action Fund reported spending $1 million opposing Obama, former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in Nebraska, who is running to get his old job back, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. The spending also supported Romney and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Brown’s Republican challenger.
  • American Action Network, a conservative nonprofit, released “Rail” opposing Democratic House candidate Jose Hernandez in California’s 10th District, and “Spending” opposing former Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s 1st District.
  • American Unity PAC, a conservative super PAC, released “Putting People Ahead of Politics,” supporting Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and “Politics Aside,” supporting Andrew Roraback in Connecticut’s 5th District and former wrestling executive Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate in Connecticut.

Michael Beckel contributed to this report.

*George Soros is the chairman of Open Society Foundation, which provides financial support to the Center for Public Integrity. For a list of the Center’s donors, visit the website.

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About the author

Rachael Marcus is a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan independent investigative news outlet, which contributes campaign finance coverage to Marketplace. For more of their reporting on money and politics go to publicintegrity.org.

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