CNN Republican Debate In Las Vegas Sponsored In Part By Major Oil Industry Lobbying Group | The Republican debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas last week was sponsored in part by the oil industry. The Oct. 18 event was billed as part of the Western Republican Leadership conference, a four-day event for party activists. ThinkProgress spoke to a representative for the American Petroleum Institute, an official sponsor of the Leadership conference. She told us that her association’s sponsorship deal also helped cover the debate. According to the Western Republican Leadership conference website, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell Oil, and other large oil and gas companies, paid $50,000 for its sponsorship package.