Who cares about the temper tantrums being thrown by the pampered media because they didn’t get to meet Tiger Woods? The real story is that while 50,000 people were at the White House asking the president to address climate change by cracking down on the fossil fuel industry, he was spending the weekend with a guy who is the epitome of Big Oil and much much more.
No wonder he was keeping the destination secret before this trip. Intended or not, it was a big F U to the people who had planned for months to travel to Washington to protest the critical cause of climate change. Worse, there has been no response whatsoever to the tens of thousands of protesters who came to his house on Sunday, nor to the many many more who were at coordinating marches in cities across the country and untold numbers of people who were there with them in spirit.
Well maybe there was another reason why the identity of Obama’s host was kept secret in the weeks leading up to the trip. The Tiger Woods golf date captured a lot of media attention, but the real story, in my opinion, is Jim Crane, the man who owned the Floridian country club and resort, who hosted the president for the long weekend, and who has a long, sordid history.
James Robert “Jim” Crane is the owner of the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club, owner of the MLB baseball team, the Houston Astros, chairman and CEO of Crane Capital Group, director of Western Gas Holdings, former owner of Eagle USA Airfreight (air freight logistics business), Crane Worldwide Logistics, et al.
Crane took his profits from EGL and formed Crane Capital Group. He also became a director and shareholder (less than 1%) in Western Gas Holdings, LLC, the general partner in Western Gas Partners, LP, a mid-stream (mainly pipelines and natural gas gathering assets) energy company operating in the southeastern Rocky Mountain region and southern Mid-Continent area (Oklahoma and Texas) of the United States. Western Gas Holdings and Western Gas Partners are majority owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Crane is also the majority shareholder in Crane Worldwide Logistics LLC., director of Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (a subsidiary of Health Care Service Corporation), and a director and executive officer in Champion Energy Holdings LLC..
A scratch golfer, Crane has been ranked as the nation’s top CEO golfer. In April 2010 he purchased The Floridian National Golf Club from H. Wayne Huizenga. The Floridian in Palm City, Florida recently completed major renovations and additions under the supervision of noted architect Tom Fazio.
Crane has a complicated web of connections with various corporations. Here is one diagram from corporationwiki that maps out some of them based on data from the Secretaries of State in Florida, California and Texas.
Oh brother, where do we start?
Oil, Gas, Pipelines
WASHINGTON — On the same weekend that 40,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington to protest construction of the Keystone Pipeline — to its critics, a monument to carbon-based folly — President Obama was golfing in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players.
The men at issue are Jim Crane and Milton Carroll though the HuffPo article mentions that other men from the oil and gas industry were in attendance. Crane and Carroll, both donors to Obama’s campaign, are directors of Western Gas Holdings, “the managing partner of Western Gas Partners, a midstream energy provider created by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies.”
Wikipedia describes Western Gas Partners as “(mainly pipelines and natural gas gathering assets) energy company”. You have to admit, that’s really rich — 50K people protesting a pipeline at the White House, many more doing the same in other cities, while the president is golfing with guys in the pipeline business.
Western Gas Partners’ main investment is in the booming field of natural gas exploration, transportation and manufacture in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming.
Western Gas Holdings and Western Gas Partners are majority owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
I recognized the name Anadarko, for a few reasons. Most recently, they were involved in the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf. They had a “25 percent working interest in the Macondo Prospect” and the U.S. sued both BP and Anadarko as owners of the well. Another reason that I remembered them was because they are an American company with strong interests in oil and gas resources in Africa, and since our military is so interested in Africa these days, I’ve been interested in companies interested in African natural resources. But I also remembered a connection between Anadarko and George Bush. This was the company that was involved with the Harken Oil scandals, Enron-type deals to hide debt and overstate earnings. Bush was a director at Harken from 1986 (Harvard began investing 30 days after Bush became director), and 1993. Bush himself made the motion to approve the Harken Anadarko partnership.
From CommonDreams in October, 2002:
Harvard Role in Harken Called Deeper
Group Says Partnership Kept Bush Firm Afloat
WASHINGTON – Harvard University’s financial relationship with President Bush’s former oil company was deeper than previously understood, with the university’s management fund creating a separate ”off the books” partnership with Harken Energy Corp. that helped keep afloat the financially troubled company, according to a report to be released today.
HarvardWatch, a student-alumni group that monitors the school’s investments, plans to issue the report and say that it has analyzed documents showing that the Harvard fund, an independent entity that manages the university’s endowment, formed a partnership in 1990 with Bush’s oil firm called the Harken Anadarko Partnership. The partnership effectively removed $20 million of debt from Harken’s books, relieving the Texas company’s short-term financial problems.
About the same time, the Harvard fund invested about $30 million in Harken, which also helped keep the firm afloat. The partnership has not been mentioned in recent accounts of Bush’s financial dealings in the oil business.
William K. Black, a former federal banking regulator, said in a telephone interview that he has examined the Harken Anadarko Partnership and concluded the arrangement was a significant expansion of the Harvard fund’s involvement in the company beyond the $30 million investment.
”Harvard had a dramatically larger financial stake and a much more interesting financial stake” than was previously understood, Black said. ”It all serves as a partnership device to move money from Harvard to Harken. This is beyond nuts from an institutional investor’s standpoint.”
Anadarko’s international “interests”:
The Company’s international oil and natural-gas production and development operations are located primarily in Algeria, Ghana, and China. The Company also has exploration acreage in Ghana, Mozambique, Brazil, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, New Zealand, Indonesia, and other countries.
Turns out that Anadarko likes fracking a lot too. What a politically tangled, oily and gassy web.
Anadarko did a press release today:
“With the outstanding momentum we established in 2012 and the opportunities our deep portfolio provides, we expect 2013 to be one of the best years in our company’s history,” Anadarko President and CEO Al Walker said. “Our 2013 capital investments will focus on projects that generate rates of return between 30 and more than 100 percent in the current commodity-price environment, while spending within cash flow. We expect to deliver sales-volumes growth of approximately five percent, with the year-over-year increase comprised almost entirely of higher-margin oil sales volumes. The projected increase in oil sales volumes will be largely driven by accelerated activity in our Wattenberg and Eagleford horizontal programs and the anticipated ramp up of oil volumes during the year at our El Merk facilities in Algeria.
“Accelerating value by advancing our high-margin deepwater and international oil and LNG (liquefied natural gas) mega projects remains a priority in 2013, and we expect to continue pursuing carry arrangements and opportunistic divestitures to further enhance the capital efficiency of our portfolio,” added Walker. “Following our highly successful 2012 exploration program where we nearly doubled our original targeted resources, we plan to be among the most active deepwater explorers in the world again in 2013. We expect to drill approximately 25 deepwater exploration and appraisal wells this year, including high-potential prospects in the Gulf of Mexico and three potentially play-opening international opportunities.”
Crane was the founder and CEO of Eagle Global Logistics (EGL) and was the CEO until 2007. The company is now known as CEVA Logistics, after a complicated set of mergers and acquisitions explained in this Material Handling Logistics publication. Crane lost a bidding war and control of EGL and formed Crane Worldwide Logistics but he did run the company when they were dinged for war profiteering during the Iraq war.
EGL settled charges with the Justice Department — war profiteering charges due to activities in earlier years. I believe the case is now sealed but much of the information is available here:
(PressZoom) – WASHINGTON – EGL, Inc., operating as Eagle Global Logistics, has paid the United States $300,000 to settle allegations that the company’s local agent in Kuwait overcharged the military for rental charges on shipping containers to Iraq for the period from January through June of 2006, the Justice Department announced today. The Houston-based company’s containers were for shipments of military cargo to Iraq under an EGL subcontract with KBR, the prime contractor for the U.S. Army’s LOGCAP III contract for logistical support of military operations overseas.
In August 2006, EGL paid the United States $4 million to settle potential civil claims under the False Claims Act based on the company’s alleged inflation of invoices for military cargo shipments to Iraq under the same subcontract with KBR.
Two employees of Crane’s company pled guilty to charges of war profiteering as part of a “global price-fixing conspiracy by freight forwarders.” One pled guilty to overcharging for military shipments to Dubai and the other, a managing director, pled guilty to “paying kickbacks to receive future business from KBR, a major contractor that was once a subsidiary of Halliburton.” Oh, Halliburton too! Well, to be fair, Hallliburton probably had their hands in everything that involved profiteering and bribery.
To facilitate the Astros purchase deal and calm tensions, Crane hired a PR man who has experience with crisis management, got a letter from a lawyer saying that he was not the target of the investigation, it was just a few bad apples, and he probably didn’t even know what was going on. EGL’s senior managment says they were fired and later pled guilty when prosecuted. EGL continued to do government work.
EGL had $82,500,000.00 in government contracts between 2001 and 2006.
Equal Opportunity Cases
As if all of that was not bad enough, here is the part that I find to be most shocking.
In 1997, complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding Crane’s Eagle USA Airfreight and its position on hiring blacks and women of child-bearing age. The EEOC issued a scathing 104 page report (most EEOC reports are said to run 3-5 pages), found that to be true, and added that Crane’s company conducted a practice of paying “female and minority employees less than white men who do similar work; did not investigate employee complaints of sexual harassment; and destroyed evidence that the company was instructed to retain as part of the two-year EEOC investigation,” according to a Houston Chronicle article from 2000.
The Missing Houston Chronicle article
The Houston Chronicle article link is no longer operative. Actually, the link is operative, but all the content in the article is gone baby gone. Now maybe this is a technical issue, since the article is from the year 2000. But in Jim Crane’s Wikipedia bio, there is a reference to this article, and the editor notes that the article was “Retrieved 2011-10-31″. So that article was apparently available until late 2011. But now all the content in the article has been deleted.
Luckily it was based on publicly available information and it was cited and linked in many different places, like here and here. There are also numerous other articles and news reports about this history of discrimination and the EEOC and court cases. If the article was disappeared, I’m not sure why.
Crane told his subordinates not to hire blacks because “once you hire blacks, you can never fire them.” On other occasions, Crane explained the reason he wanted to keep blacks out of the company was that his top managers are bigoted and they would mistreat the minorities, “giving them no choice but to sue Eagle.”
Witnesses also said Crane did not permit the company to advertise job openings because he did not want to create a paper trail of unhired qualified minorities.
To discourage blacks and women from applying, Eagle managers refused to let female and minority applicants enter its secured facilities to fill out job applications. Eagle disagreed with that assessment.
Crane also warned managers not to hire women of child-bearing age because their productivity would be low. And top company officers told employees that women aren’t suitable for management positions because male managers won’t work with a woman.
After reading that, it would not be surprising if we learned that the Chronicle content was scrubbed, though, as I mentioned before, it has been excerpted in many other places on the internet, so scrubbing it is not all that effective. This issue is worthy of a whole article of its own. Jesus. This sure looks like racism and sexism to me. If it somehow doesn’t reach that bar, those quotes are definitely examples of blatant discrimination and bigotry.
When the company’s own General Counsel, Judith Robertson, testified in 1997 and became a whistleblower, they sued her for violating attorney-client privileges, and since the current whistleblowing laws were not in place at the time, she settled with Eagle out of court. They then used this to try to end the EEOC case. EEOC denied the claim given the fact that they had testimony from dozens of other employees.
Ultimately, however, the original case was sealed until May 2000, when it was closed and a new case was opened for civil proceedings after the EEOC joined into a discrimination case as a plaintiff. (Eagle USA Airfreight, et al v. EEOC, “Civil Docket,” Case #4:98-cv-00316, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas; Eagle USA Airfreight, et al v. EEOC, “Civil Docket,” Case #4:2000-cv-01535, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas; Dube v. EGL, “Memorandum & Order,” Case #2:2000-cv-02461, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, July 5, 2000).
Crane later sued the EEOC and disputed some of the claims, and the number of claims was reduced considerably. EEOC originally sought $20 million. They settled at $9.5 million and EEOC was later required to reduce that by $6 million because it was decided that most of the cases were not worthy of compensation.
Crane’s spokesman, Bill Miller, called the E.E.O.C. investigation “a shakedown”
But in addition to this EEOC case, there were eleven more discrimination cases filed against Eagle.
NAACP Objections to Crane’s Ownership of MLB Team
When Crane was in negotiations for the purchase of the Houston Astros, all of these facts about his history of discrimination came out in many media reports. This was, and still is a well known fact, and it has been reported over a more than ten year period in the Houston area. Since Crane took control of the Astros in late 2011, this has been in the news as recently as one year ago.
It was enough of a problem for Crane’s company to reach a $9 million settlement with the EEOC. And now it’s something other Major League team owners will have to consider when they vote to approve or block Crane’s offer for the Astros.
“You have issues at times,” said McLane. “He said that was a learning experience for him and he has certainly moved well past that and has never had another problem.”
If the deal does go through, the NAACP is asking for someone to keep watch.
“We are deeply concerned that someone, that has a broad reach throughout the community and across the country regarding employment … has such a dismal record in the area of discrimination. As such this is someone that should be monitored very closely in the area of employment discrimination as it relates to minorities and woman,” the group said in a statement.”
Crane later met with NAACP to give them assurances about fair hiring practices.
Who will Obama side with?
But Crane is also mucked up with the very “Big Oil” the activists were railing against. His extensive business deals include a partnership in Western Gas Holdings, a company engaged in gathering, processing, compressing and transporting natural gas and crude oil for Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production companies.
So while President Obama was relaxing with one of the nation’s elite who makes millions from destroying the planet, activists—most of whom voted for Obama—were circling the empty White House with their pleas to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.
There are the moments in history when leaders are remembered for the decisions they make. This is a moment of truth for both President Obama and for the future of the planet. [...] Will he side with the indigenous women, clear air, clear water, cultural heritage and ecosystems or will he side with wealthy oil men?
For all of the reasons laid out above it’s hard to imagine why Obama would publicly associate himself with this guy, and how it cannot be taken as a big F U to the environmental movement.
350.org has posted a reference to the Huffington Post article about this subject and now has an action page.
Go on over and use their action page to contact the president.