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The fight is on! Anti-poverty and financial transparency campaigners take on big oil

February 14, 2012

By Ian Gary

Ian Gary is Senior Policy Manager for Extractive Industries at Oxfam America.

Photo Credit: Oxfam America

Cross posted with permission from Oxfam America’s Politics of Poverty blog.

In the first Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker and friends somehow blew up the Death Star. That’s a bit how we felt in 2010 when after years of fighting we got a new global financial transparency requirement into the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. The provision requires oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose tax and other payments in every country of operation. As I’ve been writing about in the last two weeks, we now feel like we are in The Empire Strikes Back. The oil industry has threatened to sue the SEC if they don’t get a regulation they like and are using lobbyists and lawyers to try to roll-back our victory.

Now it’s time for Revenge of the Jedi and the gloves are off. Oxfam and our allies in the Publish What You Pay coalition are mounting a big campaign to tell oil companies to stop fighting transparency—join us to take action. We have a six-figure ad campaign running the next two weeks, including a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, and online ads in the Washington Post,The HillPolitico, and the Huffington Post. (The Wall Street Journal ad is endorsed by Global WitnessRevenue Watch InstituteGlobal Financial IntegrityEG Justice, and the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.)

In addition to mounting an e-action campaign targeting Chevron, Exxon and ConocoPhillips, Oxfam is reaching out to our university campus-basedCHANGE student activists for a petition drive to SEC Commissioners telling them to issue a strong final regulation. The ONE campaign is also pressuring the SEC with a petition that has over 84,000 signatures so far.

Last week Oxfam activists portrayed Chevron, Exxon, and the SEC in bed together outside SEC headquarters in Washington, which generated goodcoverage including the morning commute on NPR. This week, the “hear no evil, see no evil” monkeys will be outside the Chevron tower in Houston, telling the company and its employees the time for silence is over.

Congress is ramping up the pressure on the SEC to issue a strong final rule and to follow the law—five prominent Senators wrote on Jan. 31, and we are expecting more Congressional pressure this week.

The battle is also being fought on a number of fronts. Over in Europe, activists staged a stunt a government building in London and the ONE campaign has a big petition drive to make sure European regulators stand up to oil company lobbying there. Elsewhere, allies in resource-rich countries such as GhanaEquatorial Guinea, Senegal, Cambodia, and Ecuador are writing to the SEC to make sure they know how important this information is to hold their own governments accountable for the spending of oil and mining wealth.

Oil companies have a lot on their plate and this lawsuit has the makings of a classic PR nightmare. (Imagine the headlines—“Oil companies sue to keep tax payments secret”.) Let’s win again and bring this saga to an end.

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Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated to be the views of the Financial Transparency Coalition, the opinions expressed on this blog are solely the opinions of the individual blogger and are not necessarily those of the Financial Transparency Coalition.

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