Against Chevron, the Strategy Has Always Been Political

The movie “Crude” was again used to promote the anti-Chevron cause last week when a Congressman and the U.S. trial lawyer appeared at a Washington, D.C. showing alongside the film’s director, Joe Berlinger.  Their comments in the Q&A demonstrated again that the litigation against Chevron for its predecessor Texaco’s operations in Ecuador is a matter of politics and public relations — not law —  designed to force the company into a settlement.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) levied several serious charges against Chevron, accusations commonly made by the anti-corporate activists but still startling when delivered by an elected member of Congress. In his five minutes of remarks (audio here), McGovern urged the crowd “to ramp up the pressure.”

And one final thing, and that is, here in Washington, we need to raise this issue more in Congress. We’re trying. I chair a human rights commission. We had a hearing on this, and trying to raise the issue of environmental contamination as a human rights issue. These people, their human rights are being abused by being forced to live in that area. And we can do something about this. We need to make this a priority.

Shortly after…when I came back — this was in December — I sent then President-elect Obama a letter [here] explaining my trip and asking him to raise this issue, and to coordinate with all the relevant departments and with the Ecuadorian government a way to help these people. We can’t continue to fight this thing out. This is not about lawyers, this is about these people that you see in this film. It’s about my friend Luis and all the people he’s been fighting for.

Donziger, the New York City trial lawyer who has masterminded the case, made it clear what he considers Chevron’s real target — its reputation:

At the end of the day, though, I don’t think it’s just a money question for them, I think it’s a reputational question. There’s opportunity costs when you have this hanging over your head and you search for new sources of supply around the world. So, you know, we’ll see how this all shakes out. They could try to drag this out as long as they possibly can. But we have a plan legally to go get their money, assuming we win the case and get a judgment, to go get that judgment in force as quickly as possible. (Audio clip)

As the old saying goes, when the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. And when both are against you, pound the table.

And get a movie made about your cause.

And hire a lobbyist while you’re at it. Only someone who believes the issue is going to be resolved politically, not legally, hires lobbyists as have Donziger, the Amazon Defense Coalition, and Kohn, Swift and Graf, the Philadelphia law firm paying the bills.

For the audio of the entire Q&A, click here. It’s about 28 minutes. Also speaking are Mitch Anderson, Amazon Watch; Luis Yanza, an Ecuadorian activist; Joe Berlinger, director of “Crude.” Berlinger said Washington’s E Street Cinema was the only venue showing the film and he urged the crowd to support the film, saying, “If it does not do well this week, it will be gone.”

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Carter Wood says:

    Later comments have added nothing to the exchange, so I’m closing this thread down.

  • Max German says:

    Based on the cut and paste Amazon Defense Coalition talking points strung together in the above comments, James has been well-coached by Hinton Communications.

  • James says:

    “Facts be damned”? How about the fact that Chevron lobbied hard to have Ecuador’s preferential trade relationship with the US suspended as punishment for allowing this lawsuit to continue? That doesn’t count as political interference in the judicial process in your book? If they had been successful many people in Ecuador would’ve lost their jobs and their economy would’ve been severely affected. And what Chevron wanted was for the Ecuadorian government to interfere in a legal case to which they are not a party and stop it from going forward. What a marvelous sense of justice!

  • Carter Wood says:

    I don’t normally post personal attacks as comments, but regard James’ ad hominem as revealing of a mindset and tactic sadly too common among the advocates of the $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron. Facts be damned.

  • James says:

    The plaintiffs will win this case in Ecuador, just as they would’ve won it in the US if Chevron hadn’t argued that it had to be tried in Ecuador. Both the law and the facts are on their side. What they don’t have is Chevron’s deep pockets, so things like a grassroots campaign and documentary help to raise awareness (and donations) to be able to keep their fight going (for over 16 years now, I understand).

    You say that the ADC has hired a lobbyist? That’s news to me, but let’s just say for the moment that it’s true. How many lobbyists does Chevron have? By your own logic, doesn’t that mean that they hope to force a political resolution to this issue? They certainly tried to do that over the last few years when they lobbied the US government to deny preferential trade relations with Ecuador as punishment for allowing this case to go forward. What do you think about that? How can you possibly excuse that while insisting that the fact that there was a movie made about this case is somehow evidence of a lack of fair play on the part of the plaintiffs?

    You make me sick, Carter. I’ve only recently become interested in this issue, and really it’s to your credit that I have. You and the other self-righteous “Chevron-can-do-no-wrong-screw-the-indians” bloggers are so over the top with your vindictive attacks on the people trying to get a fair trial in this case that you really ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You’re not arguing the merits of the case and you have no clue as to its history or the facts on the ground. And it’s abundantly clear that you don’t even care. You’re just spouting pro-Chevron venom, and you could care less if people continue to suffer for lack of medical treatment and environmental cleanup while you help this drag on even longer. Bravo! What would Jesus think of your behavior?

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