In September of 1995, as part
of the pompously named National Performance ReviewAl
Gores fatuous project to cut down government waste,
fraud and mismanagementthe Vice President boldly declared
that he was recommending the privatization of Elk Hills,
a 47,000-acre oil-rich land in Southern California. Since
1912 it had been in the possession of the U.S. Navy as an
emergency oil reserve. The oil companies salivated and made
their bids. In October 1997 the Energy Dept. announced that
the U.S. government would sell its stake in Elk Hills to
Occidental Petroleum for $3.65 billion. Overnight, Occidentals
U.S. oil reserves tripled. Occidentals stock surged
and its stockholders glowed. One of them was the Vice Presidents
father, Al Gore Sr. He owned more than $500,000 worth of
Occidental stock. A clear conflict of interest? Not to the
airheads in the media. Neither then nor any time since have
they evinced the slightest curiosity about this deal. Or
indeed about the Gore familys long and intimate connection
with Occidental and, in particular, with its longtime chairman,
the shady and sinister Armand Hammer.
devoted his life to negotiating business deals with the
former Soviet Union. Following the 1917 revolution Hammer
set up a bank in New York to channel hard currency from
Russian emigres into the hands of the Bolshevik government.
He also received money from the Bolsheviks that he distributed
to spies and underground agents here. In later years he
ran a pencil factory in the Soviet Union, the only Western
capitalist permitted to operate in Stalins Russia.
In the 1930s, as the Soviet regimes need for hard
currency grew ever more desperate, he was assigned the task
of selling off Russian art in the West and remitting the
proceeds. A lot of this art had been stolen by the Bolsheviks
from its "capitalist" owners. A lot of it was
junk. And a lot of it was forged. In return for the money,
the Soviets sent him oak staves from which he would build
of Hammers enterprises made much money He was continuously
on the verge of bankruptcy until the 1960s, when by extraordinary
persistenceand a lot of briberyhis company,
Occidental Petroleum, won a lucrative oil concession in
Libya. At last, he had serious money to play with.
could not have prospered during the Red Scare, the Cold
War and the McCarthy era had he not had powerful friends.
It was no easy feat to persuade the world that he was no
redjust a businessman trying to make a buck. One man
who was very helpful to him in this regard was Sen. Albert
Gore Sr. In 1950 Hammer had taken Congressman Gore on as
a partner in his cattle-breeding business. He also sent
him annual Christmas gifts of antique silver. And Gore repaid
Hammer in kind. In the late 1950s he introduced him to Sen.
John F. Kennedy. After the 1960 election Gore proposed to
Kennedy that he use Hammer as his personal envoy in any
future Berlin crises. While Hammer did not get the Berlin
assignment, Kennedy did have an important mission for him.
The President had been informed that Soviet crabmeat was
produced by slave labor. Gore suggested that he send Hammer
to investigate. Hammer returned to announce triumphantly
that there was no truth to the rumor about slave labor.
With great fanfare the U.S. government lifted the ban on
the money pouring in from Libya Hammer bought the Island
Creek Coal Co., the nations third largest coal producer.
Following Gores 1970 electoral defeat, Hammer appointed
him chairman of Island Creek as well as executive VP of
Occidental. Gores took home a handsome $500,000 annually.
By 1992 Gore owned Occidental stock worth $680,000. By now
Hammer was, not surprisingly, cultivating the ambitious
young Gore. In the 1960s, Gore Sr. informed Hammer that
zinc ore had been discovered near his farm in Tennessee.
Hammer bought the land for $160,000. He then promptly sold
it back to him. Occidental then began payments of $20,000
a year for the right to mine it. Gore Sr. then sold the
land to Gore Jr. for $140,000. According to the Center for
Public Integrity, Gore Jr. has been receiving $20,000 a
year from Occidental ever since. Interestingly, Occidental
never did mine the land. In 1985, Gore leased the land to
Occidental-competitor Union Zincclearly a sweetheart
deal between Hammer and the Gore family.