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Gore and Occidental Petroleum

Excerpt from The Buying Of The President 2000
January 5, 2000

18-Month Investigation

Today we released the results of an 18-month investigation of the major presidential candidates in the 2000 election with a particular focus on their personal and campaign ties to various economic interests with business before the government. The Buying of the President 2000 published by Avon, has been produced by 24 researchers, writers and editors at the Center for Public Integrity. The team gathered and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of government data and interviewed hundreds of people. As in our 1996 book, we prepared top-ten career patrons lists for every one of the major presidential candidates. These are the top donors to each candidate throughout their political careers. But for the first time, we also include lengthy chapters about the major political parties and their top 50 patrons since 1991.

What did we find?

Each of the leading presidential candidates in the 2000 election has done public policy favors for his campaign contributors. Every major White House contender who has held past elective office has career patrons or long-time financial sponsors who have underwritten his political career. And every major aspirant has used his government position to help those patrons.

This mutually beneficial relationship between a politician and his patrons is seldom acknowledged or discussed publicly. Indeed, none of the current presidential candidates would agree to be interviewed for The Buying of the President 2000. Yet these relationships between candidates and their sponsors can reveal a more accurate picture of the practical logistics and accommodations of achieving power in today's electoral process. It is a vision that extends beyond common political rhetoric.

For example, in the Democratic Party, Vice President Al Gore has a long-time relationship with Occidental Petroleum that has been enormously beneficial to the company. Occidental's late chairman, the controversial Armand Hammer, liked to say that he had Gore's father, Senator Albert Gore, Senior, quote, "in my back pocket", unquote. When the elder Gore left the Senate in 1970, Hammer hired him for $500,000 a year. Personally and professionally the vice president has profited from Occidental largess. To this day he still draws $20,000 a year from a land deal in Tennessee brokered between his father and Hammer. The total amount is more than $300,000. The personal relationship between young Gore and Hammer was very close throughout the 1980's, including trips on Hammer's private jet and constant campaign contributions.

For most of the 20th century, oil companies have tried unsuccessfully to obtain control of two oil fields owned and operated by the federal government: the Teapot Dome field in Casper, Wyoming, and the Elk Hills field in Bakersfield, California. Despite his public reputation as a staunch environmentalist, Gore recommended that the president approve giving oil companies access to this publicly owned land. It is land that the U.S. Navy has held as emergency reserves since 1912. In October, 1997, the Energy Department announced that the government would sell 47,000 acres of the Elk Hills reserve to Occidental.

Largest Privatization in U.S. history

It was the largest privatization of federal property in U.S. history, one that tripled Occidental's U.S. oil reserves overnight. Although the Energy Department was required to assess the likely environmental consequences of the proposed sale, it didn't. Instead it hired a private company, ICF Kaiser International, Incorporated, to complete the assessment. The general chairman of Gore's presidential campaign, Tony Coelho, sat on the board of directors.

The very same day the Elk Hills sale was announced, Gore delivered a speech to the White House Conference on Climate Change on the "terrifying prospect" of global warming, a problem he blamed on the unchecked use of fossil fuels such as oil. He said, quoting, "If we ignore the scientific warnings and continue stubbornly on our current course, we better begin to prepare what we would like to say to our children and grandchildren. They might fairly ask, if you knew all that, why didn't you do something about it?"

Texas Governor George W. Bush, as we all know, has shattered all previous fund raising standards for presidential candidates. In the first four months of his campaign, he took in $37 million, or $310,748 a day. He was able to accomplish this, in part, by inheriting his father's national network of financial supporters, going back more than a quarter century.

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