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Judy Orvik, Published February 24 2010

What did the oil companies buy?

I read with great interest the Feb. 2 article “summary of campaign contributions of North Dakota offices.” I was surprised to see how many GOP candidates’ largest donors are from out of state.

One contribution in particular jumped out at me – $5,000 to PSC Commissioner Kevin Cramer from Barbara and Corbin Robertson Jr. from, of all places, Houston, Texas. Because I’d never heard of the Robertsons or know of their ties to North Dakota, I decided to take a closer look. It seems Corbin is an oil and gas man who turned his father’s petroleum company into a billion-dollar energy empire and is, according to Forbes Magazine, “betting his entire stake on coal.” Robertson, CEO of GP Natural Resource Partner, a company that, according to its annual report, “has access to approximately 23 billion tons of coal reserves in the Illinois Basin, Montana and North Dakota.”

As they say, access is everything. So, if you are betting your future on coal, it would probably make sense to be in the good graces with the people in power of a rich state like North Dakota.

Now, really intrigued, I took a closer look at the North Dakota secretary of state’s Web site to see who else the Robertsons had contributed to and found that on Oct. 24, 2008, Corbin Robertson donated $26,000 in one lump sum to (drum roll please) ... “Hoeven for Governor.” That made Robertson the single biggest donor to Gov. John Hoeven’s re-election campaign. Hmm ... makes you wonder what Robertson got in return.