Dr. Mehmet Oz has championed the oil and gas industry as he vies to win a coveted Senate seat in Pennsylvania.
The previous TV personality’s vocal support for the energy business follows years of industry donations to his nonprofit after which his campaign, based on financial records reviewed by CNBC. Oz also has a private stake in oil and gas through investments in two major energy corporations, based on his financial disclosures.
Pennsylvania’s next senator will likely be a key vote for the energy industry, because it has a significant presence within the Keystone State. Pennsylvania is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer after Texas and the third-largest coal producer, based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Oz backed the energy industry this 12 months as Americans felt the strain from spiking gas prices. In a recent interview, he ripped President Joe Biden after he called on corporations that run gas stations to bring down prices on the pump.
“Now, they’re blaming the energy corporations for the gas prices. And I’m pondering, like most Americans, what are you talking about? I mean, you probably did things that make it, make it unimaginable for these corporations to exist,” Oz said in a July interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. He called Biden’s comments “class warfare.”
As Oz champions oil and gas in his bid to represent Pennsylvania within the Senate, each his campaign and private coffers have benefited from the industry and its executives.
Oz, a veteran physician and tv host, is running against Democrat John Fetterman for a Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Oz is trailing Fetterman by just below 8 percentage points in a mean of recent polls, based on RealClearPolitics. Fetterman’s campaign has raised over $25 million, while Oz and his team have brought in only over $18 million, based on data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.
Oz and his wife, Lisa, have a financial stake within the industry he has championed, as they own shares of oil and gas giants ConocoPhillips and Pioneer Natural Resources, based on their financial disclosure report. The filing notes they own shares of ConocoPhillips valued between $15,001 and $50,000 and Pioneer stock valued between $1,001 and $15,000.
Oz’s connections to the industry formed before he pursued politics.
His nonprofit HealthCorps, which promotes itself as a gaggle aiming to assist teens with their health and wellness, has seen at the least $210,000 in contributions from gas and oil producer Continental Resources since 2016, based on the group’s annual financial reports. Continental’s support has continued into Oz’s Senate bid: The corporate’s founder and chair, Harold Hamm, endorsed Oz for Senate in an April campaign video.
The backing from energy industry leaders has led to contributions to Oz’s campaign.
Hamm is amongst a gaggle of over a dozen oil and gas industry leaders who’ve combined to contribute over $200,000 to Oz’s campaign since he announced his run for Senate late last 12 months, based on a CNBC review of Federal Election Commission filings. Others with ties to the oil and gas business who’ve donated at the least $2,900 to Oz’s campaign include Jimmy Haslam, an owner of the Cleveland Browns and chair of Pilot Company, a business that owns fueling stations across the country. His father and Pilot founder, James Haslam II, also donated to the Oz campaign.
Other top energy donors in recent months include Brad Cox, the chair of oil producer Cox Operating, and Janet Cafaro, the president of Silcor Oilfield Services, FEC records show.
Jimmy Haslam and his wife, Susan “Dee” Haslam, combined to offer $50,000 to the pro-Oz super PAC American Leadership Motion.
Jimmy and Dee Haslam told CNBC in a press release that they’ve “tremendous respect for the long, successful profession Dr. Oz has had within the private sector and appreciate that he now desires to serve his country by bringing his expertise and experience to the USA Senate.” The Haslam family, as of 2015, had a net price of $6 billion, based on Forbes.
Representatives for Cox and Cafaro didn’t return requests for comment.
Hamm told CNBC in a press release that he considers Oz a “friend.” He said the 2 have known one another for nearly a decade, with the goal of bringing HealthCorps’ services into Oklahoma schools.
Hamm explained that he believes Oz will likely be a key advocate for the energy sector, which has enriched the oil billionaire. He and his family have a net price of at the least $21 billion, based on Forbes.
“Dr. Oz will champion American energy within the U.S. Senate very similar to he’s championed health his entire profession,” Hamm said.
The nonprofit’s annual reports from 2016 through 2020 give a variety of how much donors contributed to HealthCorps. Continental Resources often ranked among the many Oz group’s top backers. The corporate is usually listed as donating between $50,000 and $99,999 during those years. A HealthCorps filing says it received a variety of $10,000 to just below $25,000 from Continental in 2018.
In its earlier filings before 2016, HealthCorps lists Continental as either a “national” or a “community” sponsor. The group’s website notes that its national sponsors contribute $1 million and its community donors write checks for $250,000. The disclosures pre-2016 don’t say or show a variety of how much the corporate gave those years.
Oz’s support from the large energy industry coincides with an apparent shift in his opinion on fracking, which allows corporations to drill deep into the earth for oil and gas resources. Critics say that fracking hurts the environment by harming water supplies and polluting the air.
Before Oz ran for Senate, he repeatedly wrote columns that took aim at fracking, noting its potential threat to public health, Vice reports.
“And in Pennsylvania, there are multiple reports of air and water contamination, possibly from hydraulic fracturing sites, causing folks respiration problems, rashes, headaches, nosebleeds, numbness, nausea and vomiting,” Oz said in a 2014 column critical of fracking.
Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for the Oz campaign, said the candidate has not modified his view on fracking and is a powerful supporter of the drilling method. She also took aim at Fetterman’s position on the problem.
“As a scientist, Dr. Oz understands that, like with COVID, the Biden administration is ignoring the science and the advantages of natural gas in an effort to satisfy the novel Left, the identical liberal Democrats which are supporting radical environmental measures and funding John Fetterman’s campaign,” Yanick said in an emailed statement. “John Fetterman has called fracking a ‘stain’ on Pennsylvania, he’s called for a moratorium on fracking, and he can be a rubber stamp for the failing Biden Agenda.”
Fetterman has a mixed history with where he stands on fracking. Inside Climate News reported that Fetterman dropped his support for a fracking moratorium after his failed 2016 primary run for Senate. His position evolved after the state moved toward stricter regulations on fracking.
Emilia Rowland, a spokeswoman for Fetterman’s campaign, told CNBC that “John doesn’t support a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania and that features a moratorium on latest fracking sites.” She said he hasn’t taken any campaign money from the fossil fuel industry.
“John believes fully heartedly that we’ve to preserve the union lifestyle for the hundreds of staff currently employed by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania and the communities where they live. We will not just abandon these people, and tell them to go learn the way to code,” Rowland said in a press release. “It’s a complete false selection that we’ve to choose from jobs and a clean environment. That is just not true. We are able to have each.”
Still, Oz appears more vocal than Fetterman in publicly supporting the oil and gas industry. In a recent op-ed, he said it’s “gross, and deeply unpatriotic” for oil corporations to charge high gas prices while their businesses are making massive profits. Fetterman namechecked Chevron, Exxon and Shell within the op-ed.
Oz has rubbed elbows with industry officials during his campaign.
He was invited to a June “energy industry meet and greet” by longtime lobbyist Missy Edwards. The invite says the meeting was set to happen at Edwards’ offices in Washington. Her current clients include Southern Company and General Motors, OpenSecrets says.
A spokeswoman for General Motors said she was “unsure if GM had a representative in attendance.” Edwards and a representative for Southern Company didn’t return requests for comment.