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Secretary of State Candidate Susan Rice Has a Major Financial Stake in Canadian Tar Sands

Rice 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.

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Greenlighting the pipeline would have hurt the president with environmental advocates --  more than 1,200 people were arrested in anti-Keystone protests led by McKibben at the White House in Summer 2011. But denying it outright would have given Republicans an election year attack line, saying Obama had cost the nation much-needed jobs (although  independent studies have shown that TransCanada’s job creation claims for the pipeline are greatly exaggerated). As it was, the president still received significant heat, and Mitt Romney pledged to approve the pipeline on Day 1 if he had won the election.

Were she to become Secretary of State, Rice would be in charge of the new environmental review process and would be in a position to decide whether to issue TransCanada a permit for sections of Keystone XL stretching from Oklahoma to the Canadian border. (The pipeline’s southernmost leg has already been approved and is under construction in Texas -- with  protesters perching in trees and chaining themselves to construction equipment in an attempt to stop it.)

Rice is reportedly  Obama’s favorite to take the helm at the State Department next year. Clinton has said repeatedly that  she plans to step down shortly after Obama’s second inauguration in January. In addition to Rice, reportedly  the president's lead candidate for the job, U.S. Senator John Kerry had also reportedly  made it onto the president’s short list. Kerry, whose net worth of at least $232 million makes him far wealthier than Rice,  does not own shares of TransCanada or Enbridge, the major tar sands pipeline companies, although he does have stock in some other Canadian energy interests.

According to the  Center for Responsive Politics, Rice’s net worth sat somewhere between $23.5 million and $43.5 million in 2009, the latest year for which the center has done a full analysis of her finances. That makes her either the wealthiest person currently serving in the executive branch or a close second to Clinton. (The uncertainty surrounding these figures is due to the way officials are required to disclose their investments; instead of declaring the specific amount of stock they own, they are required by law only to declare a range.)

Other public officials have been criticized for pushing for the Keystone XL project while standing to benefit financially. The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation watchdog group  reported in December 2011 that four members of Congress who own shares in TransCanada had pressed for the pipeline’s approval -- either by supporting bills that would have forced the State Department to issue a permit or by writing to Clinton or Obama, urging them to give the go-ahead. Rice’s ownership of TransCanada stock was  noted by the Sunlight Foundation but not considered a conflict of interest at the time, because she had no direct role in the approval process.

Neither Rice’s office nor the White House returned OnEarth’s calls for comment about her financial holdings.

It’s unclear when Rice began investing in Canadian energy and banks, but the Stanford University graduate and Rhodes Scholar  worked for the prestigious McKinsey & Company consulting firm’s Toronto office from 1990 to 1993,  marrying Canadian-born TV producer Ian Cameron in 1992. She then joined the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton. (Financial disclosure forms aren’t available for Rice’s security council tenure; by law,  they’re destroyed after six years.) Rice later became President Clinton’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, then joined the nonprofit Brookings Institution think tank during the George W. Bush administration. She advised both the Kerry and Obama presidential campaigns on foreign policy.

According to the reports she filed in May 2012, Rice and her husband have a wide-ranging portfolio that includes more than 100 securities, such as IBM, Monsanto, Apple, BP, and McDonald’s. Dan Auble, a researcher at the  Center for Responsive Politics who studies the personal finances of public officials, said it’s not unusual to see energy investments play a significant role in their financial portfolios, as they do with Rice and her husband. (Auble said the holdings of a public official’s spouse are included in financial disclosure reports because they have the same potential to create a conflict of interest.) In their case, however, nine of the 14 holdings they claimed that top $500,000 are Canadian energy interests or banks.

 
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