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Energy Giving Big In 2016 Presidential Campaign, Just Not To Trump

In a campaign that is giving new meaning to the idea that politics makes for strange bedfellows, Democrat Hillary Clinton received nearly six times as much cash from the energy industry, $1.65 million, as Trump, who had only received $276,782 by the Aug. 21 reporting deadline. The Federal Election Commission data, furnished by the Center for Responsive Politics' opensecrets.org, includes donations from political action committees and individuals donating more than $200 who self-identify as working for energy companies.

Presidential campaign contributions from energy & natural resources sector

In the two previous presidential elections, GOP nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain received far more energy campaign cash than their rival, Barack Obama. While McCain raised 44% more money than Obama in 2008 from energy contributors, the largest share from the oil and natural gas sector, according to FEC data, Romney raised four times as much cash from the energy sector than Obama in 2012.

Energy donors might be gun shy in 2016, but they might also be finding their wallets tapped out after going nearly all in for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the primary season while oil prices slumped. Energy interests donated $12.6 million to Bush before he dropped out in February 2016 after losing primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

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"After 18 months of low prices, companies can't spend as much in general," Washington, D.C.-based energy analyst Kevin Book of ClearView Energy Partners said Aug. 30. "Maybe that's what Trump gets for saying he can't be bought."

Energy donors were giving to campaigns until the field narrowed to Clinton and Trump this summer. Donors from the industry have given nearly $28 million to presidential candidates in the 2016 cycle, including the primaries, 92% of that money for GOP candidates. In 2012, energy donors gave nearly $16 million through the entire campaign, split 84%/16% between Republicans and Democrats, respectively.