I’ve long thought that John McCain and Lindsey Graham’s shrill jihad against Susan Rice over Benghazi was hyperpartisan blather. But OnEarth reports something that really does give me pause: A huge chunk of Susan Rice’s personal wealth, which is estimated at $23.5-$43.5 million dollars, is tied up in Canadian oil and energy companies. That means that she would directly benefit from a State Department decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project.
Rice’s financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine. That includes Enbridge, which spilled more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 — the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
Rice also has smaller stakes in several other big Canadian energy firms, as well as the country’s transportation companies and coal-fired utilities. Another 20 percent or so of her personal wealth is derived from investments in five Canadian banks. These are some of the institutions that provide loans and financial backing to TransCanada and its competitors for tar sands extraction and major infrastructure projects, such as Keystone XL and Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would stretch 700 miles from Alberta to the Canadian coast.
Obviously, if she she became Secretary Of State, her financial holdings could be sold off and put into a blind trust. So it’s inconceivable to me that she could be making a decision on Keystone while holding stocks that would make big gains from a green light.
But I guess what surprises me is the extent of her wealth, as well as the fact that it is so tied up in carbon-spewing investments. I don’t know the source of her wealth (maybe it comes from her husband or family), but it’s a reminder of the increasing connection between public service and wealth in this country. Serving in Congress or an administration is a path to riches these days. That has consequences, because it is inevitable that the public interest gets undermined–even if subconsciously–in the daily business of the country as public servants make decision after decision that affect the industries and interests that are or will become the source of their wealth. So the critical divide in America, in my view, is no longer left or right but IN (elite; wealthy; with access to power) and OUT (on the margins; with diminished representation).
While Susan Rice may be a democrat, and may hold liberal views on the environment, her portfolio defines her as a card-carrying member of the one percent. And I prefer my Cabinet secretaries to be of moderate means, with minds and motivations unclouded by the deserve to preserve or add to their wealth.