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McFeely: Dakota Access pipeline execs among Rep. Cramer's oil campaign donors

North Dakota Representative Kevin Cramer speaks Sunday, April 3, 2016, at the ND GOP Convention at Scheels Arena in Fargo of his choice to endorse Donald Trump for president. Rick Abbott / The Forum

FARGO— The company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline is a major campaign contributor to North Dakota U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer. The congressman, as expected, is wholly unapologetic.

Optics be darned.

"Frankly, I'd be surprised if they didn't support me," Cramer said.

Cramer was a strong and vocal supporter of the controversial pipeline, which drew national attention when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested its crossing of the Missouri River south of Bismarck, N.D. He blasted the Obama administration for halting the pipeline and praised newly elected President Donald Trump for allowing construction to be completed. Oil began flowing through the pipeline in March.

Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company that built the DAPL, showed its appreciation, according to Federal Election Commission campaign contribution filings for the first three months of 2017.

Cramer's campaign listed 24 contributions totaling $46,300 from people and political action committees employed by or associated with Energy Transfer Partners or its subsidiary, Sunoco.

Contributors included billionaire Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren and his wife, Amy. Sunoco CEO Robert Owens also gave to Cramer, as did numerous other high-ranking executives and board members of Energy Transfer.

The Energy Transfer Employee Management Company PAC made two $5,000 contributions.

Just seven of Cramer's 173 contributors were from North Dakota. His list of donors reads like a who's who of Texas oil interests and Washington, D.C.-based energy PACs. The CEO of Marathon Oil contributed, as did the president and several directors of Petro-Hunt. PACs from Halliburton, Tesoro, Occidental, Phillips 66 and Hess gave to Cramer. So did executives from a couple of companies specializing in hydraulic fracturing, the process that allows North Dakota oil to be extracted from the Bakken Formation.

None of which had Cramer the least bit repentant. If he was worried about the optics of being such an unwavering supporter of the DAPL and North Dakota oil interests while accepting campaign cash from them, he wasn't showing it. Just the opposite, actually.

"Financial contributions are a reflection of political support," Cramer said. "If they are going to support anybody, they are going to support me given my convictions and philosophy."

Cramer calls his view of campaign contributions "blunt" and he's unwilling to back down from his support of fossil fuels and the campaign money that comes with it. He believes it best to "express your philosophy and don't apologize for it. When people start to wring their hands over who is giving to their campaign, it sort of diminishes the support."

"I know politicians who won't take contributions from tobacco companies," Cramer said. "I think that sends the wrong signal. I've always believed if you have a conviction of purpose, a conviction of philosophy, then people who share that purpose and philosophy should be able to support you."

Cramer raised $322,390 in the first quarter, a figure he says he's happy with considering he just won re-election in November and didn't emphasize fundraising in the meantime. Asked if the amount of money he raised will influence whether he'll run for U.S. Senate in 2018 against Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, Cramer laughed. News outlets have reported that Heitkamp raised $1.6 million in the first quarter, although her campaign filing is not yet available on the FEC website.

"One thing I guarantee you," he said. "If I decide to run for Senate, there will not be a shortage of money in the race. If I run against Heidi, one of us is going to spend a lot of money to win and one of us is going to spend a lot of money to lose. Money will not be a problem."

Cramer has a pipeline to Texas to take care of that.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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