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Oklahoma companies, tribes donate millions to national political groups

BY PAUL MONIES Published: August 29, 2010

"We think it's our responsibility as a publicly traded company, a major employer and a partner in communities where we operate to be engaged in conversations about energy policy," Minty said. "If we're not doing that, then we're going to have to answer to our shareholders about that."

Across town, Chesapeake Energy Corp. has been more subdued in giving to 527 groups this election cycle. The Democratic Governors Association reported a $25,000 contribution from Chesapeake in May. Company spokesman Jim Gipson said Chesapeake also plans to give a similar amount to the Republican Governors Association.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, stopped in Tulsa last week to raise money for Mary Fallin, the GOP candidate for Oklahoma governor. The association raised more than $58 million since January 2009, according to IRS filings. The Democratic Governors Association raised $40.2 million during the same period.

Gaddie said upcoming redistricting battles in several states are helping drive contributions to the governors associations. There are gubernatorial races in 37 states this year. Governors play key roles in redistricting state and federal electoral districts in most states.

"The more governorships you control, the better position you're in to ensure that your party doesn't get totally jobbed during redistricting," Gaddie said.

Other companies with Oklahoma ties giving to both the Republican and Democratic governors associations include Marathon Oil Co. and Noble Energy Inc.

The Chickasaw Nation gave more than $133,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $125,000 to the Republican Governors Association. The tribe also contributed $100,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the tribe supports a variety of individuals and organizations involved in the political process.

"A working government-to-government relationship is integral to achieving our mission of enhancing the overall quality of life of Chickasaw people," Anoatubby said in a statement.

See a list of Oklahoma contributors to IRS 527 groups who...

Political contributions

Individuals, companies and labor unions have different limits on contributions to political groups depending on how the groups are set up and how they use the donated funds:

Political action committees: These are organized by people with similar political philosophies to make contributions to candidates, parties or causes. Most PACs represent businesses, labor or ideological groups. They are not allowed to accept direct contributions from companies or labor unions, but they can contribute funds to candidate campaign committees. State and federal laws limit the amount of contributions to PACs from individuals or other PACs.

Internal Revenue Service 527 groups: Tax-exempt groups set up for political activities, including voter mobilization and issue advocacy. They can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations or labor unions, but they can't donate those funds directly to candidates.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics


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