China Deal Benefits Obama Donors

Administration-approved takeover by Chinese oil company provides Obama backers windfall


The government watchdog group Judicial Watch is suing the Treasury Department for records pertaining to the department’s decision to grant a Chinese government-backed company access to oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico, a move that will benefit Obama donors.

The Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) reached a “definitive agreement” with Nexen, Inc., a Canadian energy company, announced on July 23, 2012, to buy all of the company’s outstanding public shares. Nexen has holdings in the Gulf of Mexico and Canada, giving the Chinese government access to millions of barrels of Keystone XL and Gulf reserve oil.

Nexen’s holdings in the Gulf, coupled with the Chinese government’s ownership of CNOOC, meant the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States had to approve the takeover, which it did on Feb. 12.

The secretaries of several major executive departments—including treasury, state, defense, and homeland security—sit on the committee.

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the deal in November, but the Treasury Department did not reply within the mandatory 20 days. Judicial Watch then filed suit on Feb. 14 to get access to the documents.

Judicial Watch noted that several prominent fundraisers and donors to President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign stood to make a windfall profit from the Chinese corporation’s expansion in their press release announcing the suit.

David Shaw founded D.E. Shaw and Co., which massively increased its shares in Nexen in the third quarter of 2012, according to its SEC reports. Nexen’s stock rose almost 50 percent the week of the announcement, which was early in the third quarter.

Shaw bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Obama campaign in 2012. He also sits on a presidential advisory council, Judicial Watch noted. D.E. Shaw and Company did not return a request for comment.

Frank Brosens is another prominent Democratic supporter who stood to gain significantly from the merger. His firm Taconic Capital bought at least 6 million shares in Nexen in the third quarter of 2012 but sold all of them by the end of the year. Taconic did not return a request for comment on their investment strategy.

Brosens, like Shaw, has close ties to the current administration. He was reportedly Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s first choice to run the bailout program in 2009, and was a major donor to the Democratic National Committee in the 2012 cycle. He also bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s campaign in 2012.

Judicial Watch also pointed out several other organizations with close ties to the administration stood to gain from the merger.

The lawsuit comes as the president’s campaign-apparatus-turned-dark-money-advocacy group has come under scrutiny for providing donors access to the president.

“With one ill-chosen action, the Obama administration has managed to undermine our strategic interests and reward its corporate cronies,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, in the released statement.

The Treasury Department did not return a request for comment.

Andrew Evans   Email Andrew | Full Bio | RSS
Andrew Evans is an assistant editor at National Affairs and a former reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, where he covered government accountability and healthcare issues.