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Pickens Abstains From Campaign Donations to Boost Alternative Fuels Plan

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens said Wednesday he thinks that Sen. Harry Reid will be able to move an alternative fuels subsidy bill in a lame-duck session in part because of Pickens’ promise not to make campaign contributions this cycle.

In an interview with reporters, Pickens, who was once a prominent Republican fundraiser, said he has pledged not to make federal campaign donations.

“I haven’t given any money to any races,” he said. “I’m out.”

After contributing more than $100,000 to federal political committees between 2000 and 2008, Pickens has made very few contributions to federal candidates this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records.

He gave $4,800 to Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) in December, but campaign finance records show the contribution was later returned. In October 2009, he gave Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) $4,800 for his campaign.

The oilman apparently takes his pledge so seriously that he called Reid — the sole sponsor of the alternative fuels bill — when he decided to make a donation in a local race in Texas.

“Reid and I are in good communication,” Pickens said Wednesday morning. A Pickens spokeswoman explained later that the oilman “mentioned to Sen. Reid that he was getting involved in a local race and telling him so that Reid didn’t think he was going back on his word.”

The spokeswoman said there is no specific deal with Reid over the alternative fuel bill, but a general commitment on Pickens’ part that he will stay out of campaign politics in order to pass the energy reforms he supports. Another Pickens’ spokesman, Jay Rosser, added that “There’s an understanding on Boone’s end to get this passed that he needs to be nonpartisan.”

In an e-mail, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said, “there is absolutely no trade-off here.”

Reid “likes T. Boone and admires and supports his non-partisan push for national energy security, an issue he has been working on for years,” Manley wrote. “The need for America to transition to a clean energy future is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. It is an American problem.”

The bill, known as the Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act, is slated for a Senate cloture vote Nov. 17. It is a key plank of Pickens’ 2008 national energy blueprint, dubbed “The Pickens Plan,” which encourages lawmakers to move national energy consumption away from foreign oil in favor of natural gas and electric vehicles.

“I’m counting on it in this Congress,” Pickens said during a briefing at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. “All I want to do is get off OPEC oil. It’s a security issue; it’s not a political issue.” OPEC refers to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Pickens reiterated claims that his energy outline has the support of the Obama administration and House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle.

The wealthy financier and philanthropist also said Wednesday that he’s spent $80 million to date funding his project, which he said now has 1.7 million supporters.

Pickens added that he’s willing to continue his lobbying fight in the 112th Congress if Reid cannot find 60 colleagues to vote for the bill next month.

“I’ll try as hard as I can this year,” he said. “And then try again next year.”

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