Friday, March 7, 2014

A note to PolitiFact Florida

During the 2012 election, Democrat incumbent senator Bill Nelson faced off against former Rep. Connie Mack, the Republican challenger.

Nelson accused Mack of protecting oil giant Chevron from a lawsuit.  Nelson ran an ad that said ""In Congress, Mack is protecting Chevron oil from a multibillion dollar lawsuit over pollution of rivers and rain forests."

That was a powerful message.  Mack wants to protect big businesses who would pollute pristine lands with impunity?

PolitiFact only gave Nelson a "Half True" rating, however:
Nelson’s TV ad hits Mack for "protecting Chevron oil from a multibillion dollar lawsuit over pollution of rivers and rain forests."

Mack’s act of protection is a yet-to-be-heard congressional resolution listing the Chevron case as one of many reasons to withhold trade preferences with Ecuador. Resolutions are symbolic gestures, so it would take a law for Congress to take real action on Ecuadorian trade practices.

The Chevron case is also particularly complicated. Chevron says it did not get a fair trial in Ecuador and should not be held responsible anyway.

Still, the resolution seems designed to exert political pressure on the country in Chevron’s favor.

We rate Nelson’s claim Half True.
Let's summarize the summary.
  • Mack's resolution would have no effect, by itself, on U.S. policy ("symbolic gesture")
  • The Chevron case was one grievance among many mentioned in the resolution
  • Chevron says it did not get a fair trial
  • The resolution "seems" intended to exert political pressure (see the first bullet above)
So PolitiFact Florida reasons that crafting a toothless resolution "seems" intended to exert political pressure on Ecuador.  And how surprising is it that Chevron thinks it didn't get a fair trial.  Crocodile tears, right?

But let's back up a bit. In fairness to PolitiFact Florida, the article does point out that experts were sympathetic to Chevron's claim about the unfair trial:
Other experts empathized with Chevron’s argument that it did not get a fair trial in Ecuador, and that it overlooks that Petroecuador has been in control of drilling operations for the past 20 years.
Those experts just couldn't find their voices in PolitiFact Florida's summary.  And that's not a big surprise, given that PolitiFact Florida made two experts hostile to Chevron the stars of its analysis:
We found a couple of experts who agree [with Nelson], including Judith Kimerling, a City University of New York-Queens College environmental policy professor who authored the 1991 book Amazon Crude, which is widely credited with inspiring the lawsuit. She represents a group of Huaorani people from Ecuador in a lawsuit against the Amazon Defense Front and plaintiff’s lawyers over how the award would be distributed.
Relying on an expert with a direct interest in the case.  What could be better?  Maybe use a quotation from the other biased expert, Lori Wallach, as the kicker quote?
"[Mack]’s shilling for Chevron but has not yet delivered on actually cutting off Ecuador’s trade preferences," she said.
Wallach heads up Public Citizen's "Global Trade Watch."  She judged the Chevron case in a 2012 memorandum:
Ecuador is still struggling to gain compensation from Chevron for decades of contamination of a Rhode Island-sized swath of the Amazon.
 Okay, so?  So what if PolitiFact shows partiality to Chevron's critics in its story?

We're posting this today because Chevron just got a big win
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked U.S. courts from being used to collect a $9 billion Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron for rainforest damage, saying lawyers poisoned an honorable quest with their illegal and wrongful conduct.
Read ABC News' story about the case in full.  Then review PolitiFact Florida's fact check of Sen. Nelson's ad.  PolitiFact bias.

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