FROM GUEST-BLOGGER RICK KLEIN, from ABC’s The Note.
Tied to Sen. John McCain’s trip to Colombia, The New York Times has an interesting look at top McCain adviser Charlie Black’s lobbying work on behalf of the Occidental Petroleum Corp., Colombia’s top foreign producer of oil and gas — and long a target of complaints by labor and environmental groups.
Here’s a synopsis of the concerns surrounding Occidental, per the Times’ Larry Rohter: “Occidental’s activities in Colombia have long been controversial, both within that country and among human-rights, indigenous-rights and environmental groups abroad. The groups have accused the company of complicity in the killing of peasants thought to be sympathetic to the left-wing guerrilla groups that operate in the area where Occidental has pipelines or drilling activities. They have also blamed Occidental for the polluting of rural areas and have accused it of intimidating Indian tribes seeking to prevent drilling on their ancestral lands.”
Pretty powerful stuff. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Black — whose former lobbying firm (he stepped down in March) has represented Occidental since 1998 — isn’t the only prominent politico with ties to Occidental.
Occidental has long been a mark on the environmental record of none other than Al Gore, whose ties to the company (as Gore bashers love to point out) go back a generation.
Gore’s father, the late Sen. Albert Gore Sr., D-Tenn., was a major investor in Occidental and a friend of the company’s late chairman, Armand Hammer. The elder Gore landed a job at an Occidental subsidiary after he left the Senate, in 1971, and his stock in Occidental was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time he died in 1998.
Vice President Gore’s control over his late father’s estate and the Occidental holdings included in it drew him heat — and even some protests from environmental groups (!) — during his 2000 presidential campaign. (The stock has since been sold.)
The Nation’s Ken Silverstein wrote this back in May 2000: “Government backing for Occidental’s Colombia proposal runs far deeper than the Gore family’s stock portfolio. The Nation has learned, from a government source and the internal memos of an Occidental lobbyist, that the Clinton Administration has been quietly helping the company — a generous donor to the Democrats in recent years — to win support in Colombia for its drilling plans.”
– Rick Klein