!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
ExxonMobil was a participant or observer in the following events:
Dr. Elliot Berman, with assistance from scientists with the Exxon Corporation, designs a far less costly solar cell than has been previously available, lowering the price of electricity generated by the cell from $100/watt to $20/watt. Berman’s cell soon powers navigation warning lights and horns on offshore gas and oil rigs, lighthouses, railroad crossings, and a number of domestic solar applications. Solar energy becomes more popular in remote locations far away from electricity provided by grid-based utilities. [US Department of Energy, 2002 ]
The Soviet Union collapses in 1991, creating several new nations in Central Asia. Major US oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell, and Enron, directly invest billions in these Central Asian nations, bribing heads of state to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in these regions. The oil companies commit to $35 billion in future direct investments in Kazakhstan. It is believed at the time that these oil fields will have an estimated $6 trillion potential value. US companies own approximately 75 percent of the rights. These companies, however, face the problem of having to pay exorbitant prices to Russia for use of the Russian pipelines to get the oil out. [New Yorker, 7/9/2001; Asia Times, 1/26/2002]
Thomas Mosser. [Source: Washington Post]In North Caldwell, New Jersey, advertising executive Thomas Mosser opens a package mailed to his home. Mosser is in his kitchen. His family is in another part of the house; they are preparing to go buy a Christmas tree. When Mosser opens the package, it explodes, tearing his torso open and spilling his entrails onto the kitchen floor. As his horrified wife attempts to staunch the flow with a baby blanket, Mosser dies. Months later, the “Unabomber,” later identified as Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996), takes responsibility for the bombing, claiming that Mosser was targeted for the public relations work his firm did for Exxon; in a letter to the New York Times, Kaczynski will reference the wreck of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez and the subsequent massive oil spill as justification for Mosser’s murder (see April 24, 1995). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 5/5/1998] Friends and co-workers are initially perplexed by Mosser’s murder. “We’re all perplexed,” says Kathy Hyett, who worked with Mosser at Burson-Marstellar. “Why? Why?” Some of his colleagues wonder, presciently as it turns out, if any of the clients of Mosser’s firms might have triggered the attack. A college friend of Mosser’s, John Hanchette, says, “The idea of Tom’s death this way is so foreign to me that I thought, ‘It must be another Tom Mosser.’” [New York Times, 12/13/1994] Mosser is a senior executive at Young & Rubicam Inc., the parent company of public relations firm Burson-Marstellar, one of New York’s most successful PR agencies. Kaczynski will write that Burson-Marstellar represents everything that is wrong with corporate America. In his letter, Kaczynski will write, “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston-Marsteller executive.” (Kaczynski misrepresents himself as one of a group of anarchists he calls “FC,” later found to stand for “Freedom Club.”) Kaczynski will blame Burson-Marstellar for helping Exxon “clean up its public image” after the Exxon Valdez oil spill and, more broadly, for “manipulating people’s attitudes.” The firm has received negative publicity, largely in the more radical environmental press, and has been listed in articles in “No Sweat News” and “Earth First!” as representing a number of firms that are involved in damaging the environment. The Earth First! (see 1980 and After) article blames Burson-Marstellar and other PR firms for attempting to make the public believe that there is no serious environmental crisis. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1/23/1998] Burson-Marstellar will deny any involvement with Exxon during the Valdez crisis, though Exxon later asked the firm to critique the way its officials had handled the case. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1/23/1998] Kaczynski, who misspells Burson-Marstellar in the same way that it was misspelled in the Earth First! Journal article, did not know that Earth First!‘s information was incorrect; as the firm will claim, Burson-Marstellar never worked for Exxon to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Southern Poverty Law Center will observe, “Thanks to incorrect information from EarthFirst!, Mosser was killed for something his company never did.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002] After Kaczynski’s arrest, Jake Kreilik of the Native Forest Network will say, “It is obvious if you read the Unabomber’s manifesto that there is a heavy emphasis against technology and a lot of the other things that Earth First Journal focuses on in terms of the radical end of environmental politics.” Burston-Marstellar has been the focus of pro-environmental protests in the last several months, a fact of which Kaczynski may have been aware. [New York Times, 4/8/1996]
The New York Times receives a letter from the so-called “Unabomber,” who calls himself “the terrorist group FC.” This is not the first time the Unabomber has identified himself through these initials (see June 24, 1993). The author, who is as yet unidentified, promises to stop sending bombs if a lengthy article written by the “group” is printed in a national periodical such as the Times, Newsweek, or Time magazine. The writer promises to wait three months; if the publications do not print his article, he writes, he will “start building our next bomb.” [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1998] The letter is actually one of four copies mailed out together on April 20, 1995. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] According to the letter, the Unabomber was disappointed in the relatively small amount of damage done by the early bombs (see May 25-26, 1978, May 9, 1979, November 15, 1979, June 10, 1980, and May 5, 1982). “Our early bombs were too ineffectual to attract much public attention or give encouragement to those who hate the system,” he writes. He adds that after the early bombs, he took “a couple of years off to do some experimenting. We learned how to make pipe bombs that were powerful enough, and we used these in a couple of successful bombings (see December 11, 1985, December 10, 1994, and April 24, 1995) as well as in some unsuccessful ones.” Of his attempt to bomb a Boeing passenger flight in 1979 (see November 15, 1979), the letter states: “The idea was to kill a lot of business people who we assumed would constitute the majority of passengers. But of course, some passengers would likely have been innocent people—maybe kids or some working stiff going to see his sick grandmother. We’re glad now that that attempt failed.” Of the injury suffered by secretary Janet Smith (see May 5, 1982), he writes, “We certainly regret that.” However, he expresses no compunctions about having killed his recent victims, timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray (see April 24, 1995) and advertising executive Thomas Mosser (see December 10, 1994). He writes, “[W]hen we were young and comparatively reckless we were much more careless in selecting targets than we are now.” Of Mosser, he writes: “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston[sic]-Marsteller executive.… Burston[sic]-Marsteller is about the biggest organization in the public relations field. This means that its business is the development of techniques for manipulating people’s attitudes.” [Washington Post, 4/14/1996] The manuscript shows that he targeted Mosser because he believed Mosser’s firm was involved in helping Exxon minimize public criticism of its actions surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The letter also denies targeting random university professors or academics: “Some news reports have made the misleading statement that we have been attacking universities or scholars,” it reads. “We would not want anyone to think that we have any desire to hurt professors who study archaeology, history, literature, or harmless stuff like that. The people we are out to get are the scientists and the engineers.” [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] The letter will later be shown to be the work of former college professor and recluse Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996). The Washington Post will print his article, which will trigger his identification (see September 19, 1995). “FC” will later be found to stand for “Freedom Club.” [Washington Post, 1/23/1998]
The Washington Post prints the Unabomber’s “manifesto” in an eight-page supplement. It is a 35,000-word document manually typed on 56 single-spaced pages (not including 11 pages of footnotes), largely about the dangers and ills of technology. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1998; Newseum, 2011] It is published in cooperation with the New York Times. According to the Post, the document rails against modern society and technology, and explains something of the bomber’s rationale for his 17-year bombing spree. “In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people,” the author writes. He also admits to killing advertising executive Thomas Mosser (see December 10, 1994), and blames the firm Mosser worked for, Burson-Marstellar, for working with Exxon to minimize the public criticism the corporation received after the Exxon Valdez spill: “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston-Marsteller executive,” the letter reads. The author represents himself as one of a group of anarchists he calls “FC,” and also misspells the name of the firm. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996] “FC” will later be found to stand for “Freedom Club.” [Washington Post, 1/23/1998]
Publish Manifesto or Suffer More Bombings, Unabomber Writes - The Post is following the directive made months before to the New York Times that the bomber, or the group he claims to represent, will stop his bombing spree if a national publication prints his article (see April 24, 1995). The manifesto will lead to the identification of the Unabomber as former college professor Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996). Kaczynski’s sister-in-law Linda Patrik reads the manifesto in the International Herald Tribune and tells her husband David Kaczynski that she believes the manifesto could have been written by his brother. David Kaczynski reads the manifesto and agrees; he will, reluctantly, inform the FBI that it should consider his brother a suspect. [KSPR-TV, 2011]
Manifesto: Industry and Technology Must Be Destroyed to Save Humanity - Kaczynski’s manuscript is entitled “Industrial Society and Its Future.” (Throughout the manuscript, Kaczynski maintains the fiction that a group of people—“we”—are responsible for the document.) He calls industry and technology “a disaster for the human race,” claiming that they have “destabilized society… made life unfulfilling… subjected human beings to indignities… led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and… inflicted severe damage on the natural world.” The only way to save humanity, he writes, is for industry and technology to “break down.” He advocates “a revolution against the industrial system,” which “may or may not make use of violence.” He says he does not advocate a political revolution, and does not advocate the overthrow of governments, but instead “the economic and technological basis of the present society.”
'Leftists' 'Hate America,' 'Western Civilization,' and 'White Males' - Kaczynski bemoans the “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization” he attributes to the people he calls “leftists,” and says the “minority” of left-leaning “activists” and “feminists… hate anything that has an image of being strong, good, and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric, and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.… The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s problems for them, satisfy everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.” “Leftists” prefer “sordid” art forms that celebrate either “defeat and despair” or debauchery and depravity, Kaczynski writes. Ultimately, they are masochistic and self-hating, he claims. They are ruled by moral relativism, and have no real ethical or moral stance, though they pretend to such. “If our society had no social problems at all,” Kaczynski writes, “the leftists would have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.”
Conservatives 'Fools' for Embracing Technology as Well as 'Traditional Values' - Kaczynski says that industry and technology do not cause society’s problems, but they exacerbate and intensify those problems. In a technological society, people are forced to live in ways nature and evolution never intended. In this section, he turns from lambasting “leftists” to calling conservatives “fools,” writing: “They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.”
Revolution 'Easier than Reform' - After a long analysis of a variety of social ills and behaviors, Kaczynski writes that modern industrial/technological society as we know it cannot be reformed, only destroyed and rebuilt. It is specious, he maintains, to believe that “bad” parts of technology can be eliminated while retaining the “good” parts. Moreover, he claims, technology is a more powerful social force than humanity’s aspirations for freedom. “The only way out,” he concludes, “is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.” Leftists, he writes, must not be part of any such revolution, because of their tendencies towards collectivization and totalitarianism, their love of technology, and their lust for power. Only anarchists, who desire to exist on an individual or small-group basis, can effectively carry out this level of social change. [Kaczynski, 1995]
ExxonMobil disperses roughly $16 million to organizations that are challenging the scientific consensus view that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. For many of the organizations, ExxonMobil is their single largest corporate donor, often providing more than 10 percent of their annual budgets. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists will find that “[v]irtually all of them publish and publicize the work of a nearly identical group of spokespeople, including scientists who misrepresent peer-reviewed climate findings and confuse the public’s understanding of global warming. Most of these organizations also include these same individuals as board members or scientific advisers.” After the Bush administration withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol (see March 27, 2001), the oil company steps up its support for these organizations. Some of the ExxonMobil-funded groups tell the New York Times that the increase is a response to the rising level of public interest in the issue. “Firefighters’ budgets go up when fires go up,” explains Fred L. Smith, head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Explaining ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations, company spokesman Tom Cirigliano says: “We want to support organizations that are trying to broaden the debate on an issue that is so important to all of us. There is this whole issue that no one should question the science of global climate change. That is ludicrous. That’s the kind of dark-ages thinking that gets you in a lot of trouble.” [New York Times, 5/28/2003; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 10-11 ] The following is a list of some of the organizations funded by ExxonMobil:
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) - AEI receives $1,625,000 from ExxonMobil between and 1998 and 2005. During this period, it plays host to a number of climate contrarians. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 31 ]
American Legislative Exchange Council - In 2005, ExxonMobil grants $241,500 to this organization. Its website features a non-peer-reviewed paper by climate contrarian Patrick Michaels. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12, 31 ]
Center for Science and Public Policy - Started at the beginning of 2003, this one-man operation receives $232,000 from ExxonMobil. The organization helps bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. [New York Times, 5/28/2003]
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow - Between 2004 and 2005, this organization receives $215,000 from ExxonMobil. Its advisory panel includes Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Roger Bate, Sherwood Idso, Patrick Michaels, and Frederick Seitz, all of whom are affiliated with other ExxonMobil-funded organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 ]
Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) - Founded in 1984 to fight government regulation on business, CEI started receiving large grants from ExxonMobil after
Myron Ebell moved there from Frontiers of Freedom in 1999. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 ] CEI, along with another ExxonMobil-supported enterprise, the Cooler Heads Coalition, runs the website GlobalWarming.Org, which is part of an effort to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” Between 2000 and 2003, the CEI receives $1,380,000, or 16 percent of the total funds donated by Exxon during that period. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; Mother Jones, 5/2005]
Frontiers of Freedom - The organization receives $230,000 from Exxon in 2002 and $40,000 in 2001. It has an annual budge of about $700,000. [New York Times, 5/28/2003]
George C. Marshall Institute - The institute is known primarily for its work advocating a “Star Wars” missile defense program. Between 1998 and 2005, Exxon-Mobil grants $630,000 to the Marshall Institute primarily to underwrite the institute’s climate change effort. William O’Keefe, the organization’s CEO, once worked as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Petroleum Institute. He has also served on the board of directors of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another global warming skeptic organization, and is chairman emeritus of the Global Climate Coalition. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 ]
Heartland Institute - In 2005, this organization receives $119,000 from ExxonMobil. Its website offers articles by the same scientists promoted by other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 ]
Tech Central Station - TCS is a web-based organization that provides news, commentary, and analysis focusing on the societal tensions and strains that are concomitant with historical change. TCS proclaims itself as a strong believer of the “material power of free markets, open societies, and individual human ingenuity to raise living standards and improve lives.” Until 2006, the website is operated by a public relations firm called the DCI Group, which is a registered ExxonMobil lobbying firm. In 2003 TCS receives $95,000 from ExxonMobil to be used for “climate change support.” TCS contributors on the global warming issue include the same group of people that is promoted by several of the other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 13 ] In 2006, TCS will pay the public relations firm Medialink Worldwide to produce a video news release that challenges the view that global warming has increased the intensity of hurricanes. The piece is later shown on a Mississippi television station and presented as a regular news report (see June 2006).
Entity Tags: Tech Central Station, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, American Legislative Exchange Council, Heartland Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Center for Science and Public Policy, Fred L. Smith, ExxonMobil
Timeline Tags: Global Warming
ExxonMobil begins funding the Washington, DC-based organization Frontiers of Freedom. The organization, founded in 1996 by former Senator Malcolm Wallop to promote property rights and critique environmental regulations, will use ExxonMobil’s money to participate in an effort (see April 1998) to discredit the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures are being caused by the increase of greenhouse gases. One of the group’s staff members is Myron Ebell, an outspoken global warming skeptic. By 2005, ExxonMobil will have provided $857,000 in funds to Frontiers of Freedom. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 ]
ExxonMobil helps create the Global Climate Science Team (GCST), a small task force that is charged with discrediting the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are warming the planet. Members of the task force include ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist, Randy Randol; the American Petroleum Institute’s public relations representative, Joe Walker; and Steven Milloy, who heads a nonprofit organization called the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. [American Petroleum Institute, 4/1998; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 ] Milloy’s organization had been secretly formed in 1993 by tobacco giant Philip Morris with the goal of creating uncertainty about the health hazards posed by secondhand smoke. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 ]
The Global Climate Science Team drafts a memo outlining a plan to invest millions of dollars in an effort to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol and discredit the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are causing the planet to warm. The draft plan, titled “Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan,” concedes that opposition to the protocol is not shared by the public. “There has been little, if any, public resistance or pressure applied to Congress to reject the treaty, except by those ‘inside the Beltway’ with vested interests,” it notes. A key component of the plan would be to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours on Congress, the media, and other key audiences.” To do this, they would “recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap the sun’s heat near Earth,” the New York Times reports. They would look to recruit scientists “who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate,” the memo says. According to the plan, “Victory will be achieved when… recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” One method the institute would employ to measure the plan’s progress would be to count the number of news reports that express uncertainty about the issue of global warming. People involved in devising the strategy included Jeffrey Salmon of the George C. Marshall Institute; Steven Milloy, who later becomes a FoxNews.com columnist; David Rothbard of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which has received $252,000 from ExxonMobil; Myron Ebell of Frontiers of Freedom, also funded with money ($612,000) from the oil giant; and ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol. Representatives of the Exxon Corporation, the Chevron Corporation, and the Southern Company, were also involved. [American Petroleum Institute, 4/1998; New York Times, 4/26/1998; Mother Jones, 5/2005]
Entity Tags: Joe Walker, Steven Milloy, Royal Dutch/Shell, Southern Company, Jeffrey Salmon, Global Climate Science Team, American Petroleum Institute, Randy Randol, Myron Ebell, David Rothbard, ExxonMobil
Timeline Tags: Global Warming
Exxon logo. [Source: Goodlogo (.com)]One of the first officials to meet with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001) is James Rouse, the vice president of ExxonMobil and a large financial donor to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign. Several days later, Kenneth Lay, the CEO of Enron, meets with the group. It will not be his last meeting (see April 17, 2001 and After). The names of the various officials, executives, lobbyists, and representatives who meet with the task force will not be released until 2007 (see July 18, 2007). [Washington Post, 7/18/2007]
Some commentators react swiftly and angrily to the US’s abrupt withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocols (see March 27, 2001). “China can’t accept any attempt to violate the principles of the convention and eliminate the protocol,” says a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “It is totally groundless to refuse the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on the excuse that developing countries such as China have not shouldered their responsibility.” British journalist Charles Secrett shows how responsible the US is for the environmental depredations Kyoto attempts to repair: “The US, with 5 percent of the world’s population, emits almost a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide, the main climate-changing gas. It promised to cut emissions by 7 percent over 1990 levels by 2012 at the latest, but its emissions in fact rose by more than 10 percent between 1990 and 2000. Bush’s campaign for the US presidency was backed by major oil giants, including Exxon, which also led the campaign in the US against the Kyoto treaty.” Fellow British journalist Ed Vulliamy adds: “The story behind the singular determination of Bush to fly in the face of world opinion, the sentiments of most Americans, and even many in his own government reveals adherence to ideological rigor and a payment of debts to the business interests that helped him to the White House—above all, oil and coal. Oil runs through every sinew and vein of the Bush administration; rarely, if ever, has a Western government been so intimately entwined with a single industry.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 270-271]
ExxonMobil awards a $232,000 grant to Frontiers of Freedom to help launch a new branch organization called the Center for Science and Public Policy. The one-man operation will help bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 ]
The International Tax & Investment Centre (ITIC), a corporate lobby group that advocates for pro-business investment and tax reform, has a series of board of directors’ and sponsors’ meetings on the theme “Strategic Questions For Our Future.” A paper summarizing the views expressed during those meetings says that the ITIC’s work in Iraq “should be continued and considered as a ‘beachhead’ for possible further expansion in the Middle East.” Included in the group’s board of directors are representatives from Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and ChevronTexaco. [International Tax & Investment Centre, n.d. ; Muttitt, 2005]
ExxonMobil provides $2.9 million in funding to 39 groups that misrepresent climate change, according to a study that will later be conducted by Britain’s Royal Society. Such groups include the International Policy Network, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. [Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]
ExxonMobil reports $298 billion in revenue for 2004, claiming title as the world’s largest firm by revenue. Walmart, who held the number one position for 2003, generated $288 billion in 2004. The dramatic increase in revenue is attributed to record high oil prices. [Agence France-Presse, 2/1/2004; Knight Ridder, 2/12/2004]
An investigation by Mother Jones magazine identifies 44 organizations funded by ExxonMobil that are involved in, or associated with, efforts to discredit the scientific consensus view on global warming. Many of these organizations have been on the oil giant’s payroll since 1998 (see Between 1998 and 2005). The magazine’s investigation finds that the oil company has contributed a total of $8,678,450 to these organizations since 2000 with the single largest donation being given to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). That organization received $1,380,000, or 16 percent of the total funds donated by Exxon. CEI, along with another Exxon-support enterprise, the Cooler Heads Coalition, runs the website GlobalWarming.Org, which is part of an effort to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” Another large recipient of Exxon’s funds is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which has received $960,000 from the company. AEI, known for its neoconservatism, has played host to a number of global warming skeptics. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; Mother Jones, 5/2005]
Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigns. Two days earlier, the New York Times revealed he had edited reports downplaying the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. According to White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino, his departure is unrelated to the recent disclosure. “Phil Cooney did a great job,” she says, “and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.” Four days later, ExxonMobil announces that Cooney will be working for the company in the fall. [New York Times, 6/15/2005]
A White House document shows that oil company executives lied in recent Senate hearings when they denied meeting with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001) in 2001. The document, obtained by the Washington Post, shows that officials from ExxonMobil, Conoco (before it merged with Phillips), Shell Oil, and British Petroleum met with the task force (see March 22, 2001). Last week, the CEOs of ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips denied participating in the task force’s deliberations. Shell Oil’s CEO said his company did not participate “to my knowledge,” and the chief of BP America said he did not know. Though Chevron is not named in the White House document, that firm and others “gave detailed energy policy recommendations” to the task force, according to the Government Accountability Office. Cheney also met separately with John Browne, BP’s chief executive, in a meeting not included in the document. Environmentalists have long stated that they were almost entirely shut out of the deliberations, while corporate interests were heavily represented (see April 4, 2001). The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the government could keep the records of the task force secret (see June 24, 2004). Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) says, “The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force.” Since the oil executives were not under oath—a decision by Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) protested by committee Democrats—they cannot be charged with perjury. However, they can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making “any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation” to Congress. After the Washington Post releases the document, former Conoco manager Alan Huffman confirms, “We met [with the task force] in the Executive Office Building, if I remember correctly.” A ConocoPhillips spokesman says that CEO James Mulva had been unaware of the meetings when he testified at the hearing. ExxonMobil says it stands by CEO Lee Raymond’s denials; James Rouse, an Exxon official named in the document (see Mid-February, 2001), denies meeting with the task force, calling the document “inaccurate.” [Washington Post, 11/16/2005]
Entity Tags: Frank R. Lautenberg, Ted Stevens, Chevron, British Petroleum, Alan Huffman, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, US Supreme Court, National Energy Policy Development Group, Government Accountability Office, James Mulva, ConocoPhillips, John Browne, Lee Raymond, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, James Rouse
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record
The broadcast public relations firm Medialink Worldwide produces a video news release (VNR) titled, “Global Warming and Hurricanes: All Hot Air?” Medialink was hired to make the VNR by Tech Central Station, a project of the Republican lobbying and PR firm DCI Group. ExxonMobil, a client of the DCI group, gave Tech Central Science Foundation $95,000 in 2003 and specified that those funds be used for “climate change support.” The VNR features meteorologists Dr. William Gray and Dr. James J. O’Brien who deny there’s a link between global warming and hurricane intensity. Gray has said in the past that global warming is a “hoax,” while O’Brien is listed as an expert at the George C. Marshall Institute, which in 2004 received $170,000 from ExxonMobil. The VNR is aired by WTOK-11 in Meridian, Mississippi on May 31, 2006. The segment is re-voiced by the station anchor, Tom Daniels, who introduces the piece by saying, “Hurricane seasons for the next 20 years could be severe. But don’t blame global warming.” He does not disclose that the report was produced by a PR firm that was paid by an organization funded by ExxonMobil. [Center for Media and Democracy, 11/14/2006; Democracy Now!, 11/14/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/2006]
Britain’s top scientific body, the 1,400-member Royal Society, demands in a letter to ExxonMobil that it end its support for groups that spread misinformation about global warming. In 2005, the company gave 39 such groups a total of $2.9 million (see 2005). The letter accuses the oil giant of having “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence.” According to the Society, the company’s statements on the issue have been “inaccurate and misleading.” In particular, the letter strongly criticises the company’s “corporate citizenship reports,” which insist that “gaps in the scientific basis” undermine arguments that climate change is anthropogenic. The letter states that there is a “false sense somehow that there is a two-sided debate going on in the scientific community” concerning the causes of climate change. While “thousands and thousands” of international scientists agree that climate change is linked to greenhouse gases, ExxonMobil’s assertions rely on the views of just “one or two professional contrarians.” In response, ExxonMobil says the letter “inaccurately and unfairly described [the] company” and adds that it stopped funding one such group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, earlier in the year. [Royal Society, 9/4/2006 ; Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]
Tim Phillips (r) being interviewed by Rachel Maddow (l). [Source: YouTube]Tim Phillips, the president of the corporate lobbying firm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), is interviewed by progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. AFP, like FreedomWorks, Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR), and other organizations, is responsible for what Maddow calls “astroturfing” the health care reform debate—creating “fake grassroots organizations” such as Patients First and Patients United Now that purport to represent ordinary citizens, but are in fact entities created and controlled by corporate and/or political interests (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009).
Representing 'Real Folks' - Phillips is jovial with Maddow, insisting that AFP merely represents the interests of “real folks.” When asked who funds AFP’s “grassroots” offshoot, Patients First, instead of answering, Phillips tells Maddow that the organization is made up of patients “just like us. I’m a patient. Rachel, you’re a parent. So I think we’re all patients in this issue. And we all have something at stake here.” Phillips even denies being a Washington lobbyist, but instead calls himself “a community organizer” similar to the position once held by President Obama. “What do you think about that?” he asks. “Maybe I’m qualified to be president.” He finally claims that AFP is funded by citizen donors, though he admits that the bulk of its money comes from foundations such as the Koch Industries Foundations, the grant-giving arm of Koch Industries, the largest privately held oil company in the US. Maddow says, “[I]t seems odd to just call yourself patients like us when you’re a huge recipient of funding from a big company, and you’re trying to distinguish yourself from lobbyists and big companies.” Phillips in turn says that to label groups like AFP anything but citizen organizations is “demeaning” to the ordinary citizens who turn out at the rallies and forums. Maddow responds: “I’m not calling anybody, any individual American, a front group. I’m calling Americans for Prosperity’s subgroups a front group for the corporate interest that funds you, guys. Honestly, I mean, that’s the allegation that we’re making here.”
'We Would Love to Have More Corporate Funding' - Phillips says: “[C]orporate interests are a minuscule part of our funding.… And by the way, we would love to have more corporate funding. So if there’s more corporations watching us, feel free to give to us. We’ll be happy to have their support as well. We will get the message out on this health care issue.” He denies ever taking money from Exxon, but says AFP would be more than happy to accept Exxon and other such funding. Maddow notes that Exxon has listed AFP as a recipient of large amounts of money, and Phillips qualifies his statement: “This year, we haven’t had any Exxon money.… But again, though, we’re happy to take corporate money.” Maddow says that she isn’t sure the protesters showing up at the town halls at the behest of AFP know that the organization is funded by oil and health care corporations.
'Gotcha Politics' - After Maddow notes Phillips’s involvement with several Republican political and lobbying campaigns, Phillips accuses her of playing “gotcha politics.” Maddow retorts that Americans “want to know who the players are in this fight and who’s organizing what are being maintained as if they’re just spontaneous efforts happening organically by Americans who are angry and they’re aren’t being coordinated by industry and by lobbyists and by political campaign groups associated with the Republican Party. And that’s why I want to talk about who you are, because you have such an important role in coordinating these events and I think the American people are curious.” In his turn, Phillips says that it is “gotcha politics” that is helping the anti-reform movement win the issue. Before Maddow ends the interview, Phillips invites her to join AFP on the bus tour “as my guest to see these real Americans. Would you do that?” Maddow replies, “I can’t bear the conflict of interest with your corporate funders.” [MSNBC, 8/7/2009]
Entity Tags: Koch Industries Foundations, Conservatives for Patients Rights, Americans for Prosperity, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Republican Party, FreedomWorks, Patients United Now, Patients First, Tim Phillips, Rachel Maddow
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
A list of 10 companies that have avoided paying US income taxes is provided by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is pushing for legislation that will close the legal tax loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid the bulk of their tax responsibilities. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet writes, “Some people call the income tax system with generous loopholes for big companies corporate welfare or corporate entitlements.” Sanders’s list, based on returns and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents filed in 2009 and earlier, includes:
ExxonMobil. The oil giant made $19 billion in profits in 2009, but paid no federal income taxes, and received a $156 million tax rebate.
Bank of America (BoA). The financial corporation made $4.4 billion in profits in 2009, and received nearly $1 trillion in Federal Reserve and Treasury Department “bailout” funds. The bank received a $1.9 billion tax refund.
General Electric. This multinational conglomerate made $26 billion in profits in the US, and over the last five years has received $4.1 billion in tax refunds.
Chevron. The oil giant made $10 billion in profits in 2009, and received a $19 million refund from the IRS.
Boeing. The defense contractor received a $30 billion contract from the US Department of Defense in 2009 to build 179 airborne tankers, and received a $124 million tax refund.
Valero Energy. This energy corporation, the 25th largest company in the US, garnered $68 billion in sales in 2009, and received $157 million in tax refunds. Over the last three years, Valero has received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.
Goldman Sachs. The financial giant paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes in 2008, though it recorded $2.3 billion in profits. It also received nearly $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
Citigroup. The financial conglomerate made over $4 billion in profits in 2010, but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion “bailout” from the Federal Reserve and Treasury.
ConocoPhillips. The oil conglomerate garnered $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, paid no taxes, and received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.
Carnival Cruise Lines. This entertainment giant made over $11 billion in profits between 2006 and 2011, but paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes during that period.
In a press release calling for “shared sacrifice,” Sanders writes: “While hard working Americans fill out their income tax returns this tax season, General Electric and other giant profitable corporations are avoiding US taxes altogether.… [T]he wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations must do their share to help bring down our record-breaking deficit.” Sanders writes that “it is grossly unfair for Congressional Republicans to propose major cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women, and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the reality that some of the most profitable corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.” Sanders calls for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the deductions for oil and gas companies. He is also introducing legislation that would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would garner as much as $50 billion a year in tax revenues. Sanders says: “We have a deficit problem. It has to be addressed, but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country. The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We’ve got to talk about shared sacrifice.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Boeing Company, Carnival Cruise Lines, Citigroup, Bernie Sanders, Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, Goldman Sachs, Chevron, Lynn Sweet, Valero Energy Corporation, General Electric, ExxonMobil
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises
The Republican National Committee (RNC) files a court brief calling the federal ban on direct corporate donations to candidates unconstitutional, and demanding it be overturned. Such direct donations are one of the few restrictions remaining on wealthy candidates wishing to influence elections after the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). The brief is in essence an appeal of a 2011 decision refusing to allow such direct donations (see May 26, 2011 and After). The RNC case echoes a request from Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that he be allowed to form and direct his own super PAC (see November 23, 2011), and recent remarks by Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA) calling for donors to be allowed to contribute unlimited amounts to candidates (see December 21, 2011). The RNC brief claims: “Most corporations are not large entities waiting to flood the political system with contributions to curry influence. Most corporations are small businesses. As the Court noted in Citizens United, ‘more than 75 percent of corporations whose income is taxed under federal law have less than $1 million in receipts per year,’ while ‘96 percent of the 3 million businesses that belong to the US Chamber of Commerce have fewer than 100 employees.’ While the concept of corporate contributions evokes images of organizations like Exxon or Halliburton, with large numbers of shareholders and large corporate treasuries, the reality is that most corporations in the United States are small businesses more akin to a neighborhood store. Yet § 441b does not distinguish between these different types of entities; under § 441b, a corporation is a corporation. As such, it is over-inclusive.” Think Progress legal analyst Ian Millhiser says the RNC is attempting to refocus the discussion about corporate contributions onto “mom and pop stores” and away from large, wealthy corporations willing to donate millions to candidates’ campaigns. If the court finds in favor of the RNC, Millhiser writes: “it will effectively destroy any limits on the amount of money wealthy individuals or corporation[s] can give to candidates. In most states, all that is necessary to form a new corporation is to file the right paperwork in the appropriate government office. Moreover, nothing prevents one corporation from owning another corporation. For this reason, a Wall Street tycoon who wanted to give as much as a billion dollars to fund a campaign could do so simply by creating a series of shell corporations that exist for the sole purpose of evading the ban on massive dollar donations to candidates” (see October 30, 2011). [United States of America v. Danielcytk and Biagi, 1/10/2012 ; Think Progress, 1/11/2012] The RNC made a similar attempt in 2010, in the aftermath of Citizens United; the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of its rejection. [New York Times, 5/3/2010; Tom Goldstein, 5/14/2012] Over 100 years of US jurisprudence and legislation has consistently barred corporations from making such unlimited donations (see 1883, 1896, December 5, 1905, 1907, June 25, 1910, 1925, 1935, 1940, March 11, 1957, February 7, 1972, 1974, May 11, 1976, January 30, 1976, January 8, 1980, March 27, 1990, March 27, 2002, and December 10, 2003). Shortly after the Citizens United ruling, RNC lawyer James Bopp Jr. confirmed that this case, like the Citizens United case and others (see Mid-2004 and After), was part of a long-term strategy to completely dismantle campaign finance law (see January 25, 2010).
Entity Tags: Republican National Committee, Halliburton, Inc., ExxonMobil, Ian Millhiser, Michael Shumway (“Mike”) Lee, Willard Mitt Romney, US Supreme Court, US Chamber of Commerce, James Bopp, Jr
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
Logo of American Crystal Sugar, one of the corporate donors making contributions to Steve King’s re-election campaign. [Source: ACSC]US Representative Steve King (R-IA) tells an audience at a town hall meeting in Jefferson, Iowa, that he has accepted no corporate contributions for his campaign. Yet King has indeed accepted over $100,000 in corporate contributions. The denial comes after a constituent asks him about the impact of the 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited contributions by corporations and labor unions (see January 21, 2010). The constituent says: “The whole question of what’s wrong with our country here is corruption. Money buying elections. Money buying corporate messages.” King replies: “That’s another thing. I will listen to him. I just want to tell you. I don’t have any corporate contributions into my campaign.” King’s campaign has accepted contributions from the PACs of Koch Industries, American Crystal Sugar, AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, Exxon, First American Bank, Kirke Financial Services, Mail Services LLC, Mobren Biological, Silverstone Group, Sukup Manufacturing, and a large number of corporate trade associations. Scott Keyes of the liberal news Web site Think Progress writes: “King is technically correct that corporations haven’t contributed directly to his campaign. Federal election law (see March 27, 2002) prohibits corporations from making such contributions to any candidate. However, corporations establish their own PACs precisely so that their leadership and investors can donate to candidates. King’s campaign has benefited immensely from these corporate PACs, receiving more than $100,000 for his reelection bid.” [Think Progress, 4/25/2012; Center for Responsive Politics, 7/9/2012]
Entity Tags: Kirke Financial Services, Berkshire Hathaway, American Crystal Sugar, AT&T, First American Bank, Sukup Manufacturing, Scott Keyes, Silverstone Group, Koch Industries, Mail Services LLC, Steve King, Mobren Biological, ExxonMobil
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.