Oil Billionaires Pass Over Texan Candidates to Back Another Bush

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The childhood home of George W. Bush

Oil is pumped out of the ground behind a home in Odessa, Texas, September 4, 2000. Presidential candidate George W. Bush grew up in the Odessa/Midland area and, after earning a MBA at Harvard, he came back to the area to work in the oil business. He often refers to Midland, Texas as a place that helped shape who he has become today. At the Republican convention, he invoked the one-time Midland slogan 'The Sky is the Limit' as a philosophy that has encouraged him.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

The oil barons have chosen their candidate for president, and it isn’t either of the Texans who are running.

Jeb Bush’s campaign disclosed Wednesday donations from pipeline magnate Richard Kinder, “Dallas” heir Ray Lee Hunt, Hilcorp Energy Co. founder Jeffery Hildebrand, fracking billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones, and investing tycoon T. Boone Pickens. Each gave the individual maximum of $2,700 last quarter.

The five oil barons all reside in Texas, whose junior senator, Ted Cruz, and former governor, Rick Perry, are also seeking the Republican nomination and have been outspoken industry proponents. Bush, though now a Floridian, of course has deep family ties to the state and the industry.

The donations underscore Bush’s advantage with major Republican benefactors. He has already raised $114.4 million, including money from outside groups like super political action committees, compared with Cruz’s $52.3 million and Perry’s $17.9 million, according to Federal Election Commission data.

“I don’t know anything but Bushes,” Pickens said in an April 28 interview on Bloomberg TV. Shortly after, he said he gave $100,000 to Jeb’s effort, according to the New York Times.

Kinder, chairman of Kinder Morgan Inc., hosted a fundraiser for Bush in March, according to a local news report. Their relationship stirred controversy in 2002, when Bush was seeking re-election as Florida’s governor and Kinder was a former executive of the recently imploded Enron Corp.

Foreign Investments

Hunt, who leads closely held Hunt Consolidated Inc., served on President George W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. In 2007, his company found itself at odds with the State Department over a contract in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. His father H.L. Hunt is widely said to have been the inspiration for J.R. Ewing in the popular television series “Dallas.”

Unlike his father and brother, Jeb Bush never worked in the oil industry. But he was born in the west Texas boomtown of Midland, and he says he supports more domestic drilling -- just not off Florida’s coast.

Cruz espouses pro-industry positions such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline and removing the ban on crude exports.

As governor of Texas from December 2000 until January 2015, Perry presided over an almost tripling of the state’s oil production. A month after leaving office, he was named a director of pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners LP.

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