Monday, November 21, 2011

Chevron Blogger Dumped by San Francisco Chronicle for Ethics Lapse

Zennie Among Several Paid By Chevron To Fake Positive News Coverage

The San Francisco Chronicle has finally thrown blogger Zennie Abraham off of its website City Brights after his ties to a Chevron operative were disclosed.

Recently, The Chevron Pit, exposed Zennie and his connections to Sam Singer, a Chevron media consultant based in San Francisco. Singer clearly pays Zennie to write positively about many of his clients, including Chevron. See this post here. Yet, Zennie never disclosed that he was paid to shill for Singer's clients.

The Chronicle’s decision to take a more ethical look and ultimately terminate Zennie should be applauded. Considering that Chevron often uses underhanded methods to buy positive media, the hometown newspaper of the San Ramon-based company is no longer being used as an unwitting instrument of the oil giant.

Chevron has a long and sordid history with writers like Zennie who pretend to be something they are not, so Chevron can circulate its deceptions about the company’s intentional contamination of the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Given the oil giant’s horrific record of contamination in both Ecuador and the U.S, paying for good news is about the only way for Chevron to get any. This year an Ecuador court awarded a group of indigenous tribes $18 billion for damages related to oil contamination left by Chevron in the rainforest. Several months later, a U.S. court denied efforts by Chevron to avoid paying the judgment.

Chevron, though, sees itself above the law of the land and doesn’t hesitate to resort to such tactics as:

Allowing the spouse of a Chevron employee to fake being an independent journalist so he could attack the legal case of the Ecuadorians.

Pro-Chevron blogger, Alex Thorne, tried to pass himself off as a legitimate journalist by emailing questions to environmental groups about their funding of the San Francisco-based Amazon Watch, a supporter of the Ecuadorians. Thorne claimed to be working on an “article” for a publication that he refused to specify. He also did not use his last name in the email, signing it only as “Alex.” The e-mails then asked the funders “if it is time” to “reevaluate” their support for Amazon Watch in light of Chevron’s phony charges of fraud in the lawsuit.

But Thorne failed to acknowledge two major points in his emails to the environmental groups. First, he is married to Kristen Thorne, Chevron’s senior policy advisor on environment and energy issues. Second, he has operated a pro-Chevron website critical of the leaders of the Ecuador lawsuit against Chevron.

After these facts came to light, Thorne closed down his blog.

Trying to pay a journalist to spy on the Ecuadorians.

In 2010, Chevron tried to pay a real journalist $20,000 to spy on sick Ecuadorians to determine if they really had illnesses. Chevron wanted the reporter, Mary Cuddehe, to lie to the Ecuadorians saying she wanted an “interview” about their medical condition when really she would be reporting back to Chevron. Recruited by Kroll – a private investigative firm hired by Chevron – Cuddehe considered the offer. Her conscious got the best of her, though. She turned Chevron down and then wrote about the whole thing, exposing Chevron’s deception.

Faking a television newscast sympathetic to the company.

In 2009 when Chevron learned that a potentially damaging report about the company’s oil contamination in the Amazon rain forest was being prepared by 60 Minutes Chevron executives hired former CNN correspondent, Gene Randall, to produce a misleading report espousing solely Chevron’s point of view but appearing to be objective.

In the video produced by Chevron, Randall, interviewed Chevron’s managers and consultants but completely ignored the arguments of the plaintiffs. The fake news report ends with the deceptive voiceover “Gene Randall reporting.”

The “news cast” remains on Chevron’s web site and appears in Google searches.

As for Zennie, we can only hope that one day he’ll get a real job.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chevron Faces Another Conflict With Key Latin American Country

Brazil Oil Spill Raises Questions About Company’s Respect For Local Laws

Chevron faces yet another conflict with a key Latin American country where it has a sizable investment – Brazil Chevron is currently embroiled in a huge conflict in the largest country in South America related to a huge oil spill off the coast near Rio de Janeiro. If Chevron’s flouting of local laws in Brazil is as flagrant as it has been in Ecuador, then it could lead to open warfare between Chevron and two Latin American countries.

What's happening in Brazil sounds very similar to what happened in Ecuador, where the company is attempting to evade an $18 billion judgment for massive oil contamination in the rainforest that has cost thousands of lives and devastated an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island.

In Brazil, the Federal Police is investigating Chevron’s statements about the amount of oil spilled, the cause of the spill and the containment. Other government officials and environmentalists are questioning Chevron’s estimates. Also, it appears the spill has not been contained, even though Chevron said it had been. In other words, many Brazilians believe Chevron is lying to them.

Fabio Scliar of the Brazilian Federal Police said the information provided by Chevron did not match the visual evidence at the site. "Initially, the reports do not correspond to reality," said Scliar. "I want to understand what's happening."

Brazil’s Energy Minister Edison Lobao said: “If Chevron is not doing what it should (to contain the spill) it will be severely punished.”

In Ecuador, Chevron’s U.S. executives have declared political warfare on Ecuador's government as part of a strategy to discredit the $18 billion judgment for the cleanup of massive oil contamination left behind two decades ago -- one that experts believe dwarfs the size of BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil giant is paying several U.S. corporate law firms, lobbyists and public relations gurus hundreds of millions of dollars to foment open conflict with Ecuador's government as part of a global strategy to escape justice. It has created the unusual specter of a major American oil company deliberately provoking a diplomatic row with an oil-producing Latin American country that is a key U.S. trading partner.

The stepped-up political strategy comes at a time when Chevron's legal prospects in the case, which is being heard in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio, have considerably weakened. Ecuadorian citizens originally filed the claims in 1993 in New York but a U.S. judge shifted the case to Ecuador in 2002 at Chevron's request. At the time, Chevron heaped lavish praise on Ecuador's court system. When evidence began to show the extent of the contamination, Chevron declared it would never pay a damage award.

In September, a U.S. appeals court blocked Chevron from using an injunction from a U.S. trial judge to enjoin enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment in any of the dozens of countries where the oil giant operates. Separately, the Ecuador court in February found Chevron liable and imposed $18 billion in damages, which the plaintiffs are appealing as too low.

In any event, the message from Ecuador is simple -- when it comes to Chevron, Brazil should beware.