Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chevron’s Ecuador $19 billion Pollution Problem Now An Issue in Florida Senate Race

Chevron's oil-related catastrophe in Ecuador (See here and here) is now an issue in the hotly-contested Florida Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and his challenger, Republican Connie Mack.  Chevron faces a $19 billion liability in the country for deliberately dumping billions of gallons of life-threatening toxins into the Amazon, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer and other oil-related diseases.

This is the Senate race that Chevron and its friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hope to buy by funneling huge dollars to Rep. Mack.

Last week, Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Mack in a television ad for letting Chevron try to help him buy a Senate seat.

Entitled "Hedge Fund Honcho," the ad goes like this:

NELSON: "I'm Bill Nelson and I approved this message." 
ANNCR: "Out-of-state billionaires and special interests have spent over $20 million to buy Connie Mack IV a Senate seat. 
Is it any wonder? In Congress, Mack is protecting Chevron Oil from a multi-billion dollar lawsuit over pollution of rivers and rain forests. And Mack filed a bill worth $2 billion for a Wall Street hedge fund speculator who happens to be one of Mack's biggest donors. 
Connie Mack. Deep in debt to the special interests" (YouTube, 10/11).

This campaign ad says it all. Given that Chevron contributes millions of dollars to Members of Congress and congressional candidates, it moves with ease in Washington, DC. It ranks third in political donations among the Fortune 500 (and is one of the largest contributors to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $1.8 million to defeat Nelson.)

Not surprisingly, Chevron has harnessed a few Members of Congress to help its high-paid lobbyists push to cancel Ecuador's bilateral trade preferences in retaliation for the $19 billion judgment.  (Chevron fails to mention to its allies in Congress that it wanted the litigation tried in Ecuador’s courts after it was originally filed in U.S. federal court in New York.)

Mack, who is a member of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, has introduced a bill to nullify the trade benefits for Ecuador on behalf of his friends at Chevron. (Mack also is helping other U.S. corporate interests in Venezuela and Argentina.)

Never mind that cancellation of the trade preferences for Ecuador would mean the loss of 375,000 jobs in the South American nation. Chevron is smoking mad about being held accountable in Ecuador for its human rights crimes.  Contributing to the campaign coffers of members of Congress so they will defend the indefensible is a small price to pay for the company to exact revenge against indigenous and farmer leaders in the Amazon.

Kent Robertson, Chevron's press flak, told Politico that if Ecuador’s President would just violate his own Constitution and pressure the country’s independent courts to dismiss the lawsuit, then Mack's bill would "disappear." See this article in Politico. In the criminal underworld, that’s called extortion.

This is the seventh year Chevron has engaged in a futile lobbying effort on Capital Hill to cancel Ecuador’s trade preferences because it must answer for its wrongdoing in court.

Despite its contributions and arm-twisting, Chevron has not succeeded because most Members of Congress see it the way U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez does. She called Chevron's lobbying racket over the Ecuador case "extortion."

Let's not forget the quote from the anonymous Chevron lobbyist who told Newsweek in 2008."We can't let little countries [like Ecuador] screw around with big companies like this…”

There’s a reason Mack is behind in the polls.

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