Beto O’Rourke and his wife, Amy, made more than $1 million from a family investment company that bought and sold stocks in companies like Exxon Mobil, Phillip Morris, and Transocean, the company behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, during the first two years that O’Rourke was in Congress.
O’Rourke’s tax returns, released earlier this week, show how the presidential candidate profited off of the sale of stocks in fossil fuel, cigarettes, tech, and pharmaceutical companies — though O’Rourke did not ever personally control the investments.
The company, Campr Partners, is a limited liability company controlled by Amy O’Rourke’s father, William Sanders, an El Paso real estate tycoon. Amy O’Rourke sold her stake in the company in 2014 for between $1 million and $5 million, records show.
In 2012, Campr gave $37,500 to a shadowy PAC that helped O’Rourke win his first election to Congress, campaigning hard against his opponent in the Democratic primary in El Paso. That same year, the O’Rourkes brought in $86,879 in income from Campr, according to O’Rourke’s tax returns.
The tangled web of assets and interests are an example of how O’Rourke’s substantial personal fortune, which comes largely from his wife’s family, could become an issue in a Democratic presidential primary that has focused in large part on condemning a political system that Democrats — including O’Rourke — say is tilted unfairly in favor of the wealthy.
O’Rourke’s tax returns also showed he had slightly underpaid his taxes in two years and given only a small fraction of his income to charity.
"Beto has never had any interest in or control over Campr,” said O’Rourke’s campaign in a statement. “Amy sold all of her Campr assets in 2014 and, even prior to that, never had any control over its investment decisions or expenditures."
The substantial sum that O’Rourke’s father in law donated to the PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability did not go directly to O’Rourke’s race, but into the group’s general slush fund. The PAC, which worked across the country to defeat incumbents in both parties, was legally prohibited from coordinating with O’Rourke’s campaign.
O’Rourke’s personal financial disclosures show that between 2012 and 2014, Campr bought and sold stocks in pharmaceutical and tech companies from Pfizer to Microsoft to Facebook. The stakes were worth between $1,000 and $15,000, the financial forms show.
Campr invested in a large number of fossil fuel companies, some of them with a history of environmental problems like oil spills. The company reported buying or selling stakes in Occidental Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Plains All American Pipeline, Kinder Morgan, Exxon, Chevron, Transocean, and Western Gas Partners from 2012 to 2014, years that O’Rourke was in Congress.
Some environmentalists on the left have particularly scrutinized O’Rourke’s ties to the fossil fuel industry, which includes companies like Exxon, as he talks on the campaign trail about the importance of fighting climate change. He was the top recipient of fossil fuel dollars in the House in 2018 — the year he was running for Senate in Texas, which is the epicenter of the fossil fuel industry. That money comes from individual employees of fossil fuel companies.
While campaigning for president in recent weeks, O’Rourke has declined to sign a pledge from activists saying he wouldn’t take donations of more than $200 from individuals in the fossil fuel industry, saying he didn’t want to turn down contributions from workers.
O’Rourke has a strong voting record from the League of Conservation Voters, which grades candidates on how they vote on environmental issues. But critics point to a key vote O’Rourke took in the House in 2015 to lift the ban on oil exports, saying it would increase competition.