Gore's Oil Money
The Clinton Administration says that since no US government money is financing Occidental's project in Samore, it will take no position on the company's investment. "It's a matter that involves the internal policies of another country," says Laura Quinn, a spokeswoman for the Vice President. Gore writes off his family's stock holdings in the company as an inheritance, and Quinn says that the Vice President "has not made a decision proactively himself to make investments."
Privately, the Administration has allied itself with the company's cause. The key figure here is Richardson, who like Gore enjoys warm ties to Occidental. When Bangladeshi Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed came to the United States for a visit in June 1998, Robert McGee, a lobbyist for Occidental, wrote to the Administration seeking meetings for him. (Occidental is one of many US energy companies eager to tap into Bangladesh's huge natural gas reserves.) Richardson, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, answered the call and met the minister. In October 1998, two months after Richardson had moved on to the Energy Department, McGee dropped him a note along with tickets to the Armand Hammer United World College Reception. (McGee's letters were listed in a summary log of contacts between Occidental and the Energy Department, which I obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request filed eight months ago. The log contains only one-sentence descriptions of the contacts in question. Despite repeated promises, copies of the documents themselves still have not been released.)
Last March Richardson hired a longtime Occidental lobbyist, Theresa Fariello, to serve as his deputy assistant secretary for international energy policy, trade and investment. While working for Occidental, Fariello, according to disclosure forms, lobbied the Energy Department on the company's interests in Colombia, as well as in Ecuador, Russia, Nigeria and Qatar. According to her current job description, Fariello "directs department relations with other nations, develops international energy policy and analyzes world energy market developments." (The summary log obtained under the FOIA refers to an August 1998 letter from Fariello to Richardson. The letter was given a priority level of "Important," though the subject was not given.)
The revolving door has also been spinning in the opposite direction. To promote its Colombia plans, in 1997 Occidental hired Scott Pastrick of the PR firm Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healey. Treasurer of the DNC during the scandal-racked 1996 campaign, Pastrick is an old friend of Gore's. His role in '96 included preparing "call sheets" that Gore used to brief himself on donors before making fundraising calls. (Pastrick got a bit of bad press for asking Johnny Chung to contribute $125,000 at a 1995 fundraiser at the home of Steven Spielberg.)
Though no longer at the DNC, Pastrick retains remarkable access to the Administration. Last year he and his wife, Courtney, were invited to the state dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, and they've given $4,000 to the Gore 2000 campaign. More important, says a government source, Scott Pastrick has an easy line to key Energy Department staffers, including Richardson's deputy chief of staff for international policy, Rebecca Gaghen. Pastrick has not returned phone calls seeking comment.
Occidental also appears to be well plugged in at the US Embassy in Bogotá. The Nation obtained an embassy briefing paper on Samore, which puts a favorable spin on the project. According to the embassy, Occidental is carrying out programs in conjunction with the Samore project that "will directly benefit the [U'wa] and will also contribute to upgrade their infrastructure." Such an enthusiastic appraisal is no coincidence, since the embassy received the briefing paper directly from Occidental--the company's fax number is still at the top of each page, conveniently identifying the sender--and then put it out as its own.
Occidental's drilling proposal is also being pushed by the US-Colombia Business Partnership, an organization headed by Michael Skol, who until early 1997 was the Clinton Administration's deputy assistant secretary of state for Latin America. Eleven major US companies with interests in Colombia, including Occidental, fund Skol's outfit.