The Man Who Bought Jack Dalrymple

You’ve probably read the article in Business Week about Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma oil tycoon who’s struck the motherload in Western North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. While the article got a bit of coverage in the state-owned media (or is it the other way around?), not much was really said about the man and his interest in our great state.

While the profile in a corporate-friendly rag is unsurprisingly glowing, it does give some insight into what’s going on in the Bakken:

Hamm is the man who bought the Bakken, the shale formation that’s the biggest U.S. oil find since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay in 1968… He leased his first acres and drilled his first wells in North Dakota nearly 20 years ago, and stayed with it when others gave up. Today, Continental, with a stock market value of $13.5 billion, vies with oil giants such as Hess for the most Bakken acres under lease (more than 900,000), the most drilling rigs (24), and the most wells (more than 350). Continental’s revenue has nearly tripled from two years ago to an expected $1.76 billion in 2011, while profits have grown sevenfold to an estimated $538 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Hamm and his family control 78 percent of the company’s shares, a stake valued at more than $10 billion.

For his part as acting Governor, Dalrymple has been the oil man’s best friend. At a Bakkien conference in Denver he told the oil companies in attendance that his door was always open to them (and I’m sure reminded them of his open wallet – please insert cash). Unfortunately, for the locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers, his door is ONLY open to oil men or other large donors.

Folks, we are in there hustling along with everyone else in western North Dakota who is working hard to develop this great resource. We’re doing our very best to keep up.  And although I can’t promise we can keep up with you every step of the way, I can promise that we will be faithful and long-term partners in your efforts to develop the Bakken shale. And most of all, I can promise that you will have direct access to our state government at the highest level. – Jack Dalrymple

In her blog, Forum reporter Teri Finneman noted that Hamm donated $20,000 to Dalrymple’s election campaign (it’s not a re-election campaign, as he was appointed to the position by a quickly escaping John Hoeven). Other notable donors include assorted energy companies’ political action committees, including Marathon Oil’s $5,000, Exxon Mobil’s $600 and Chesapeake Energy’s $1,000.

And along with all that cash comes a new-found popularity among the capitalist elite:

This fall I was invited to appear on Jim Cramer’s show called “Mad Money.”  I was told to find my way to a pumping site on a big hill north of Killdeer. I didn’t know what to expect way out in the middle of nowhere, but as I reached the top I saw several motor homes and crews of people that looked like they were making a Hollywood movie. They ushered me into a motor home where I met Harold Hamm, T. Boone Pickens, and of course Jim Cramer.

Acting-Governor Jack seems to be happy rubbing elbows with the Oil Patch Celebrities – Art Link must be frowning at us all now.