Battle of Ideas: Promises of Fraud, Wrongdoing by Oil Companies Not Substantiated in Court

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”’Hawaii Reporter is running a series of floor speeches from the 2003 Legislative Session in an effort to further debate in the state and make more public the Battle of Ideas that goes on at the state Legislature. This is the floor speech given by Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, on March 31, 2003, during the 2003 Hawaii Legislative session in defense of Chevron-Texaco. Earlier this week, the state attorney general announced it would not pursue a lawsuit against the oil company because “there is no case.” This announcement came after previous governor’s administrations claimed the oil giants committed a variety of alleged offenses and took the companies to court.”’


Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the Senate concurrent resolution and resolution.

I’ve never been known as one to knuckle under to anybody or anything, and I see these resolutions as just another attempt at wealth envy by some in our state. The period of time of three decades was mentioned and I can recall, during those three decades, going to many hearings, sitting in on hearings, hearing charges and allegations. And that was during a period of time when the Majority Party, actually four decades, controlled this State lock, stock, and barrel — the executive branch, the judicial branch, the legislative branch.

I can remember two former attorney generals who were very active in the courts, and they came up empty. I can remember tax directors never saying a word about any kind tax problem. And when we read the resolution, we’re struck by the terms — may have, apparently, if, allegedly, potentially, probably, could have — and yet we’re urging further litigation.

Well, isn’t it wonderful that the law firm from Chicago has stepped forward as a pro bono effort to help the state. I haven’t seen too many of these law firms that have ever come forward to help this state or certainly to help the people. And when the statement is made “there’s no financial risk; there’s no expenditure,” that’s just not true. We may cover up our expenditure in terms of the time and the personnel that are involved. And we’ve seen this over the last couple of years when the past attorneys general were involved in these and other exploits. Those of us in the Senate saw hearing after hearing where people came from departments, and they’re still coming, saying we couldn’t get any relief or any help or any assistance from the attorney general’s office, so give us the power and more expenditure to hire our own attorneys.

If the resolution sought to provide new information or to urge that the new administration pursue any evidence which has been forthcoming, then I don’t think there’d be any problem because we can all support this. And you know what? The good news is the administration is doing just that. The attorney general is doing just that. But that’s a far cry from saying, “let’s have litigation based on suppositions and allegations. Let’s go after the company because it is large, because it is successful, because it is a primary energy producer in this state. Let’s go after them.”

And to make the analogy in the huge leap between Chevron-Texaco and Enron is disingenuous at best, dishonest, and knowingly so, at worst.

The fact that we have a study — the Gramlich and Wheeler study — well that’s reassuring. We’re the study capital of the free world. This body authorizes more studies than any other place on the face of the earth. We have a study which will show just about anything you want. But show hard evidence. Show evidence that will stand up in court, because that’s the bottom line if you want successful litigation. And that’s what our attorneys are doing right now, seeing if in fact there are any additional evidence or charges that will hold up in a court of law. We had all kinds of promises before of fraud, of wrongdoing, and none of them were substantiated in court.

And now we have crocodile tears for the taxpayers and consumers of this state. Isn’t it nice that individuals in this body are worried about being overtaxed and yet they continue to advocate and introduce higher taxes, newer taxes, increased fees. You want to help the consumers and the taxpayers, cut the taxes, reduce the taxes, eliminate the taxes. We have the power to do that.

And by the way, just in case anything is found by the oil companies or anyone else, that they in fact added to the cost of consumers, there’s nothing in the resolution, there’s nothing in past actions that gives anything back to the consumers. It would go back to the state.

So Mr. President and colleagues, all I see here is a chumming expedition, which is all the more interesting since we had the Majority Attorneys, the Majority Party, the Majority tax directors, everyone else looking into this situation for 10 years. It’s not a question that the merger between the two companies at this point, several years ago, is going to hide anything. It’s just that when you talk about the may’s, and the if’s, and the would be’s, and the could be’s, there’s nothing there.

We should prioritize our efforts. We should be concerned about consumers. We should also be concerned about those people within our midst in our community that are well documented and well known that do owe taxes to the state, but for some reason have been given a pass up to this point and not been taken to task for the taxes that they owe.

It’s fun to talk about the billions of dollars and millions of dollars that may be out there, but our job is to deal with the realities that we have, including balancing our budget and making sure that we don’t add to the discomfort and burdens of individual family and small business consumers in this state. And so far, we haven’t done that and these resolutions would not help in any way.

Thank you, Mr. President.

”’Sam Slom is the Republican Senator representing the Hawaii Kai area of Oahu.”’