Environmentalist Gary Peters Hearts Big (French) Oil

Invests thousands in foreign energy giant

Gary Peters

Gary Peters / AP


Gary Peters invested thousands of dollars in a French oil company to pad his personal pockets, while lining his campaign coffers with money from environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer.

A trust fund created by Peters invested between $1,001 and $15,000 in Total S.A., a French oil giant that owns and operates nearly two-dozen overseas refineries, as well as 60 locations in the United States through a subsidiary, according to his financial disclosure forms. Total S.A. would appear to be at odds with Peters opposition to traditional energy sources and the Keystone Pipeline, according to Brandon Helderop, a Detroit News contributing blogger and Republican consultant, who broke the story on Tuesday.

Having voted seven times against constructing the pipeline since 2011, Peters calls the legislation a Republican "messaging bill" and last summer was quoted as saying, "One of my main concerns with the Keystone Pipeline is that we will be seeing piles of petcoke in a lot of other places in the United States, because it is a main byproduct of refining Canadian oil." Peters’ stance against petcoke has become his battle cry in refusing to support the pipeline, to the point of calling for a federal investigation into its "health and environmental impacts."

However, Peters doesn’t have a problem investing in a foreign oil company that produces thousands of barrels in petcoke per day. Total S.A. France operates in the United States under as Total Holdings USA. According to their website, they have 60 locations throughout the U.S. in addition to manufacturing facilities in 24 states. One of those facilities is the Total Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which turns out 174,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Moreover, one of the products the foreign oil company produces and ships out is none other than Peters’ nemesis: petcoke.

The three-term Democratic congressman’s personal finances have not shaken environmental support for his campaign. Sen. Harry Reid held a big money weekend retreat in Lake Tahoe to benefit Peters’ campaign, just months after Peters helped raise $400,000 for Reid’s Super PAC at Steyer’s San Francisco mansion. Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire, had pledged to spend $100 million supporting environmentalists this cycle.

Peters’ investment was a wise one. Total S.A.’s stock has risen 40 percent since October 2008 and traded at $64.11 per share as of Wednesday.

The Democrat’s investment portfolio may have made him a millionaire, but it is also opening Peters up to charges of hypocrisy. The Washington Free Beacon reported in July that Peters invested heavily in a company that outsourced jobs and shifted billions in potential tax revenue in low-tax Ireland. On Monday, the Free Beacon revealed that Peters held between $15,001 and $50,000 in AIG bonds, despite his condemnation of the insurer for giving out lavish bonuses while taking taxpayer money.

Helderop says the disparity could alienate Peters, who holds a slim lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land in the heavily Democratic state.

Peters has been accused of possessing a "do as I say not as I do" attitude. Unfortunately, his investment in foreign oil and tax evading companies does nothing to convince Michigan voters otherwise.

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