Charles C. Thompson II is a network news veteran, both as a founding producer of ABC's "20/20" and as Mike Wallace's producer at
CBS's "60 Minutes."
An experienced print journalist, Tony Hays' recent 20-part series on narcotics trafficking received an award from the Tennessee Press Association.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: The following report on Vice President Al Gore’s
alleged past drug use, as well as his deep connections with Soviet
operative Armand Hammer, was researched and written by native Tennessee
reporters Charles C. Thompson II and Tony Hays. Thompson is a long-time
veteran of network news, having been a founding producer of ABC’s
“20/20,” as well as Mike Wallace’s producer at CBS’ “60 Minutes.” His
most recent book,
“A Glimpse of Hell: The Explosion on the U.S.S.
Iowa and Its Cover-Up,” was released by W.W. Norton in Spring 1999. Hays is a veteran journalist who has written extensively on political corruption in Tennessee. Recently his 20-part series on narcotics trafficking received an award from the Tennessee Press Association.
According to a former high-ranking official in the CIA, Russian intelligence agencies possess thick dossiers concerning Al Gore’s heavy usage of drugs three decades ago as well as his father’s questionable dealings with Armand Hammer, a dedicated Soviet operative for 70 years.
The CIA source, speaking to WorldNetDaily on condition of anonymity, has since the 1970s routinely advised American presidents, including President Clinton, on Russian intelligence.
There is credible evidence, says the source, that these dossiers have already been employed to alter Gore’s behavior on issues affecting Russia. As an example, he cited Gore’s acquiescence to the corruption of former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who co-chaired a commission with Gore to encourage Americans to do business in Russia. Chernomyrdin accumulated from $1 billion to $5 billion in personal assets from the systematic looting of the Soviet state treasury during the time he co-chaired the commission with Gore.
Republican presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush brought this exact point up during last week’s second debate with Gore.
“We went into Russia,” said Bush. “We said, ‘Here’s some IMF money,’ and it ended up in Viktor Chernomyrdin’s pocket and others. And yet we played like there was reform.”
WND has reported previously, American businessmen, who were threatened with death by the Russian mafia and/or had their assets expropriated by these gangsters, say their complaints were brushed aside by Gore and his aides while the vice president chaired the committee meant to help them.
“Chernomyrdin didn’t have to show Gore the incriminating dossiers; Gore knew he had them. It’s akin to blackmail and extortion, but it’s really using highly embarrassing information on a sustained basis,” said the source, who has been associated with America’s foreign policy elite for three decades as a chief adviser on intelligence matters.
“The situation will get much worse if Gore’s elected president. Russian president Vladimir Putin [a former KGB colonel who has mob connections] will tell Gore, in effect, ‘I’ve got the files and this is what we want you to do.’ And Gore will do it,” he added.
Earlier this year, John C. Warnecke Jr., a former Tennessean newspaper reporter in Nashville, told Newsweek reporter Bill Turque that he and Al Gore had spent many a night together nearly 30 years ago imbibing cognac and smoking opium-laced marijuana. Warnecke worked with Gore in 1971 and remained a good friend through 1976. Ken Jost, another former reporter for the newspaper, backed up Warnecke’s account after Turque’s biography, “Inventing Al Gore,” was published.
In years past, The Tennessean had treated Warnecke as if he were royalty due to the fact that his father has close connections to the Kennedy family, as did John Seigenthaler, the former editor and publisher of the paper. Seigenthaler considered himself to be a king-maker and recruited both Warnecke and Gore to join the paper’s staff, largely because of their respective fathers’ political clout. Seigenthaler was the one who first convinced Al Gore Jr. to run for Congress.
Even so, after his revelations about Gore’s alleged drug use, the paper didn’t waste any time training its editorial guns on the 53-year-old Warnecke.
It was quick to bring up the fact that he had once suffered from depression. Warnecke admitted he had been depressed 20 years ago, but said he had obtained treatment then and was fine now. The paper cited 31 former Tennessean staffers who had worked with Gore and Warnecke in the early 1970s who said they had never seen Gore smoke marijuana. Three others deferred comment.
Gore called the story “old news” and said he used marijuana “when I came back from Vietnam, but not to that extent.” One of the trio who refused to discuss Gore’s drug usage was the top editor, Frank Sutherland, who had allegedly partied with Gore and Warnecke.
“If Al Gore wants to talk about his private life, that’s fine,” Sutherland said. “But I’m not going to talk about my private life. That’s nobody’s business.” An ardent Gore supporter, Sutherland went so far as to appear in a Gore campaign video.
In early June, Sutherland couldn’t find space in his newspaper to report the story about the overflowing sewage in a ramshackle house Gore rents on the edge of his 80-acre estate in Carthage, Tenn., to a disabled man, his wife and their five handicapped children. Even though the story appeared on the Associated Press and on the front page of almost every major newspaper in America, Sutherland said it didn’t merit sending a reporter from Nashville to Carthage, about 60 miles away.
One of the tenants, Tracy Mayberry, said she had complained repeatedly about clogged toilets, overflowing sinks and the odor of sewage that permeated the house, but received no satisfaction from Gore. Even after he was widely chided as a “slumlord,” Gore apparently didn’t take the matter all that seriously, because the repairs were carried out in a slipshod, grudging manner. Disgusted, Mayberry and her family vacated the premises and moved to the Midwest, where she said she was going to vote for George W. Bush.
Whatever the Russians have in their dope dossiers regarding Gore, the material can’t match what’s apparently in the Gore/Armand Hammer files. The squalid Gore/Hammer relationship, according to one longtime observer of Hammer, is much like a B-grade gothic movie, replete with spying, murder, bribery, art forgery, jewelry theft and exploitation of workers and the environment.
‘Remarkable life’ Until Armand Hammer’s death on Dec. 7, 1990, at age 92, a story such as this could probably not be written. During his lifetime, Hammer commissioned three vanity biographies, including one entitled “The Remarkable Life of Dr. Armand Hammer,” to camouflage his dealings with Russia.
His public relations staff doled these volumes out to reporters, and over time fiction became accepted as fact. Any reporter who dug too deeply into Hammer’s background was threatened with a lawsuit. Steve Weinberg, a well-respected journalist and University of Missouri professor, was the only writer to produce an unauthorized biography about Hammer. Published nearly two years before Hammer’s death, the well-researched book drew Hammer’s ire. He had his attorneys file a lawsuit in England alleging that 156 passages were defamatory.
Weinberg did not have the same defenses against libel in England that he would in the U.S. He had the burden of proving that all 156 passages were true. If just one were proven false, Weinberg would have lost the entire case. As it was, his publisher was forced to pay millions of dollars in legal expenses. The case was dropped when Hammer died.
Hammer’s attorneys also threatened retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Corson for what he wrote about Armand and his father, Julius, in Corson’s 1985 book, “The New KGB.” Corson, who died earlier this year, was a legendary expert on intelligence who had served in combat in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He told attorney Louis Nizer, who was famous in his own right, to pound sand after Nizer threatened to bring legal action. Nizer never followed up on his threat to sue.
In the past 10 years, a glut of CIA and FBI documents concerning Hammer’s extensive dealings with Russia have been declassified. In addition, a hard-hitting book, “Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer” by Edward Jay Epstein was published four years ago. This material provides rich insight into Hammer’s treasonous activities on behalf of the Communist Party.
Interestingly enough, only a trickle of documents have been released concerning the Gore/Hammer relationship from the Russian archives. This, despite the fact that millions of documents on other subjects have been dislodged since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union 10 years ago.
“The Russians don’t want anybody chasing down that rat hole, poking into those side corridors involving the Gores,” the CIA source said. “Al Gore Jr. is clearly still a valuable asset to the Russians.”
Armand Hammer was born on May 21, 1898, in Manhattan. His father, Julius Hammer, told friends that he named his son for the arm and hammer emblem of one of the Communist Party predecessor organizations. Julius, a dedicated revolutionary most of his life, was born in the Jewish ghetto of Odessa in 1874. He spent his youth in Russia, and when he was 16 moved with his family to America.
One of the founders of the Communist Party in America, Julius Hammer raised huge sums of money for radicals both before and after the Russian Revolution, sometimes by theft. A graduate of Columbia College’s medical school program, Julius was primarily an abortionist. He also controlled eight drugstores from which he siphoned off assets for the benefit of the Bolsheviks.
Armand followed in his father’s footsteps to Columbia College and was a second-year medical student in 1919, working afternoons in his father’s clinic, when tragedy struck. Julius Hammer was charged with manslaughter after a 33-year-old woman underwent an abortion in the clinic located in the Hammer home and later bled to death. Although Julius admitted performing the abortion, he claimed it was medically justified. However, author Edward Jay Epstein asserts that it was Armand, not Julius, who actually performed the abortion on Marie Oganesoff, the wife of a Russian diplomat who had come to America for the czarist regime during World War I. Not long after his father was arrested, Armand dropped out of medical school. Despite this, he referred to himself as “Doctor Hammer” for the rest of his life.
Julius’ trial dragged on for almost a year. It was interrupted by a charge that William Cope, a public relations man retained by him, had attempted to bribe a juror. The jury finally found Julius guilty and sentenced him to three-and-one-half years of hard labor at Sing Sing State Prison.
Julius’ imprisonment left the Hammer family in a quandary. At that time, there seemed to be a good chance that the worldwide embargo of Russia would be loosened, allowing foreign entrepreneurs to make a financial killing in that impoverished country. Julius had been planning on returning to Russia to take advantage of the situation, but now Armand was designated to go. A callow youth with no business experience, he couldn’t even speak Russian. Nevertheless, he was shrewd and could capitalize on his family’s sterling relations with Lenin, Leon Trotsky and other communist luminaries. Armand was later joined in Russia by his brothers, Viktor and Harry, and by his father after he was released from prison.
In 1921, Armand drew the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, then a 26-year-old lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice spearheading the “red round-ups.” The future FBI director heard from an informant that Hammer was a courier for the newly organized Communist International, or Comintern. Hoover alerted British authorities, and Hammer was searched when his ship reached Southampton, England. A propaganda film was found in his possession. Scotland Yard detained him on the ship for two days and then allowed him to go his own way. Although Hoover kept close tabs on Hammer for another half century, he never arrested him, possibly because Hammer’s Russian spymasters had amassed so much dirt on the FBI chief.
After a meeting with Lenin in the Kremlin in 1921, Armand later recorded in his dairy: “If Lenin told me to jump out that window, I probably would have done it.” He said he was “captivated” by Lenin and agreed to do anything he asked. Lenin granted Hammer the first U.S. concession in Russia, a run-down asbestos mine. Josef Stalin, Lenin’s brutish successor who murdered millions of his countrymen, later granted Hammer a concession to manufacture pencils in Russia.
In addition to these ventures, Hammer spent much of the 1920s serving as a courier and paymaster to a multitude of active spies salted away in 20 countries. It was a miserable existence for Hammer, one-night stays at down-at-the-heel hotels, constantly dodging counter-intelligence agents who pursued him.
In 1922, embittered by the atrocious working conditions and miserly pay at the asbestos mine, the workers revolted. Hammer quickly got in touch with Felix Dzerzhinski, head of the Cheka, the dreaded Soviet secret police for help. The Cheka brutally suppressed the strike. Hammer wrote glowingly about Dzerzhinski’s tactics. He said he had been with the police chief in the Urals, and when a train was late, Dzerzhinski became enraged. He ordered a detachment of Cheka troops to take the chief train administrator and his assistant to a courtyard and shot as a “lesson” for the other workers. Hammer was impressed by Dzerzhinski’s brutal methods, telling colleagues that he had witnessed an example of the ends justifying the means.
After Armand’s return to New York in late 1931, he separated from his Russian-born wife, Olga, a former cabaret singer, and his young son, Julian. He later divorced Olga and was reconciled with Julian. The divorce was part of his attempt to obscure his dealings with the Soviet Union. For the next decade, Hammer devoted much of his time to promoting and running Hammer Galleries in New York. These galleries were a Soviet front used to peddle fake Romanoff jewelry and counterfeit art. Russia was strapped for money, and this was a desperate attempt to raise hard currency. The shipments that arrived from Russia included everything from costume jewelry to Torah scrolls stolen from synagogues and icons ripped from the walls of orthodox churches.
Almost none of it had been owned by the czars. Faberge Easter eggs were also faked. Hammer was allowed to keep very little of the profits. A master of disinformation, at one time when Hammer had only $2,000 in his banking account, he was widely touted in the press as being a multi-millionaire.
In 1940, even though he had signed a non-aggression pact with Adolph Hitler, Stalin was mistrustful of his German allies and enlisted Hammer to influence President Franklin Roosevelt to help Russia if she were invaded. Roosevelt was well aware of Hammer’s background from J. Edgar Hoover and from British intelligence. Roosevelt met once with Hammer, for just five minutes. Hammer’s mission was a failure. The Roosevelt administration was well aware of who Hammer’s real masters were and shunned him.
Hammer was nervous during the 1950s as the Korean War was being fought and anti-Soviet sentiment grew throughout America. He saw himself being jailed as his father had been. Somehow, that never happened, although others were imprisoned or deported for much lesser offenses.
Enter Al Gore Sr. During this same time, Hammer brazenly petitioned the U.S. government for a license to export synthetic nitrogen-based and ammonia fertilizer to Russia. This fertilizer could also be used to make military explosives and munitions. Most of the fertilizer would be manufactured at a $75 million West Virginia plant owned by the U.S. Army. Hammer submitted the highest bid for a 15-year lease on the plant. Denied access to the Truman administration, he enlisted key members of Congress, most notably Albert Gore Sr., to lobby in his behalf. He put Gore on his payroll.
Hammer cut Gore in on a sweetheart deal when Occidental purchased Hooker Chemical Company in 1969. According to author Bob Zelnick, who was then an ABC News correspondent, the Tennessee senator was allowed to purchase a thousand Hooker shares at $150, far less than the stock was worth. Gore was also made a partner in Hammer’s cattle-breeding business, from which the Tennessee senator earned tidy profits. Gore reciprocated by doing favors for Hammer, such as cutting through Justice Department opposition to make an FBI agent available to testify for Hammer in a civil suit.
Zelnick lost his job at ABC News after he refused to honor the network’s demands that he break his contract with Regnery Publishing, Inc. to write his book, “Gore: A Political Life.” He now teaches graduate courses in journalism at Boston University.
The House Armed Services Committee looked into Hammer’s fertilizer deal and grilled him about his dealings with Russia. The Army refused to do business with him. The FBI was also hostile, and the Hammer deal ultimately went down in flames.
About that same time, Hammer’s 26-year-old-son, Julian, was charged with first-degree manslaughter after he shot an old Army drinking buddy, Bruce Whitlock, twice in the chest in Julian’s Los Angeles apartment. Julian told police that he and Whitlock had quarreled about a $400 gambling debt. Armand Hammer spread bribe money around, and employed Rep. James Roosevelt as an intermediary. The eldest son of President Franklin Roosevelt, James Roosevelt had been eased out of the White House staff by his father, because he frequently intervened in politically sensitive cases and offered his influence to financial backers of the Democratic Party.
James Roosevelt informed Hammer that he was in deep financial trouble, requiring $2,500 for alimony payments and debts. He also asked and received $10,000 from Hammer for a partnership in a failing business he owned. Through Roosevelt’s intervention, Hammer’s bribes, reportedly amounting to $50,000, and the slick manipulations of his attorneys, the charges were dismissed against Julian.
Hammer was the guest of Sen. Albert Gore Sr. at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on Jan. 19, 1961. That evening, Hammer and Gore hoped to talk with the new president about Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev’s proposal for “coexistence” with the West. However, the meeting never took place. Hammer had recently become chairman of Occidental Petroleum, then a financially strapped venture, and he allegedly skimmed millions from his third wife’s substantial settlement from her former husband to keep Occidental afloat. After Kennedy and his White House aides rebuffed Hammer’s bid to represent the U.S. at a meeting with Khrushchev in Moscow, Albert Gore Sr. approached Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges and persuaded Hodges to allow Hammer travel to Russia under the Commerce Department’s auspices.
That same year, Hammer also attempted to reinstate a variation of the fertilizer deal with Russia that had been shot down a decade before. This scheme was avidly supported by Rep. Roosevelt and Sen. Gore. The FBI learned about the deal from wiretaps on key Soviet agents.
This information was brought to the attention of William Sullivan, then the number-three man at the FBI. W.A. Brannigyn, special-agent-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, wrote Sullivan on Feb. 23, 1961, “Hammer has been described by a business associate as a loyal American but (is) unscrupulous and a type ‘who would do business with devil if there was a profit in it.’” Brannigyn also wrote that because of the “political overtones” of Hammer’s proposed deal, the U.S. should avoid any dealings with him.
Hammer’s wholesale bribing of Libyan officials in the 1960s to obtain drilling and exportation rights for Occidental was credited by knowledgeable sources as having caused the overthrow of King Idris by Muammar Gaddafi, then only a 27-year-old sub-lieutenant in the Libyan army, in 1969. The year before that happened, Hammer and his third wife, Frances, and Gore Sr. had attended an extravagant affair in Libya staged by Hammer to honor the King Idris and his court. Occidental didn’t fare all that well with Gaddafi.
Not long after Richard Nixon became president in 1969, Hammer began petitioning administration figures to normalize U.S./Soviet relations. According to a CIA memo, Hammer worked through an experienced KGB officer, Mikhail Bruk, to smooth the way for him to return to Moscow. Hammer announced at a press conference that he had concluded “a wide-ranging agreement” with the Soviets for his company. Occidental’s stock value shot up 19 points before analysts determined that most of it was pie-in-the-sky. The CIA labeled the deal a stock swindle. CIA director Richard Helms sent Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, a memo on Aug. 1, 1972, which included excerpts from the agency’s voluminous files on Hammer and Russia in order to blackball Hammer’s most recent Russian proposal.
“The financial community is skeptical about the worth of this agreement,” Helms wrote.
Hammer donated $54,000 in laundered $100 bills to President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign during the spring of 1972. Watergate special prosecutors moved against him, and his attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, persuaded Hammer to plead guilty in 1975 to misdemeanor charges of making illegal campaign contributions. He was fined a mere $3,000 and put on probation, but not sent to prison. He immediately launched a crusade to have his guilty pleas set aside.
For the remaining years of his life, Hammer commuted back and forth to Moscow, failed several times in his attempt to wangle a Nobel Peace Prize and battled to keep his life as Soviet agent secret. He also continued to do business with Albert Gore Sr. — and began an alliance with Gore’s son, Al Jr.
By 1990 when Hammer died, Gore Sr. had been a full-time Hammer employee for 20 years after having lost his 1970 senatorial reelection bid. After Gore’s defeat, Hammer put him on the Occidental board of directors and subsequently made him chairman of an Occidental subsidiary, Island Creek Coal Co., the third largest coal producer in America.
‘Money in the bank’ Of all the deals and financial schemes that Sen. Albert Gore Sr., the father of the current presidential candidate, was involved in with Soviet agent and business mogul Armand Hammer, none was more tawdry than their bull-and-heifer breeding venture.
In 1950, with Hammer’s encouragement and financial support, Gore began buying and breeding prize Aberdeen-Angus cattle in a big way for his farm outside Carthage, Tenn., which he was turning into a baronial estate. Gore’s hometown paper, The Carthage Courier, contains stories during the 1950s and ’60s of important politicians, lobbyists, sports figures, defense contractors and government vendors flocking to Tennessee to attend a Gore cattle auction. A former Gore senatorial office staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that many of the buyers never bothered to pick up their livestock after plunking down thousands of dollars for the animals.
Was this a bribe?
“Not in the strictest sense of the word,” the former staffer said. “It was sleazy, something you would expect from Gene Talmadge (a flamboyant Depression-era political boss from Georgia). People weren’t bribing Sen. Gore for any specific favor. They were putting money in the bank for the time when they needed a favor from him.”
He added, “This was not the King Ranch. Gore wasn’t even an especially good cattle farmer. These people (the buyers) wanted something for their money. The cattle trading wouldn’t pass any kind of smell test.”
He said that what happened on Gore’s farm with the cattle was well known, but was a carefully guarded secret by the staff. What about Armand Hammer?
“He was a really sinister character, a gangster, and supposedly a Soviet agent,” the former aide said.
Former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, a close ally of the Gore family, told author Zelnick, “I’ve sold some Angus in my time too, but I never got the kind of prices for my cattle that the Gores got for theirs.” For example, a 1963 sale grossed $85,675. Cattle and the sale of bull semen quickly surpassed the family’s profits from growing tobacco. Al Gore Jr. first participated in one of his father’s cattle auctions when he was 10 years old, selling a cow his father had given him to raise to a Virginia businessman for $751.
Gore Sr. and his family were embittered by his humiliating defeat by Rep. William Brock in 1970. The senior Gore, his son and their supporters would, from then on, solemnly swear that the senator had been beaten by the forces of darkness due to his championing of racial equality and his opposition to the war in Vietnam.
Actually, Gore had a spotty record at best on race relations, having voted against the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964. According to Washington author Joe Goulden, whose 1969 book, “Truth Is The First Casualty,” is still required reading for students of the Vietnam war, Gore was a Johnny-come-lately to the peace movement.
“Gore was allowed to vote in absentia for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution while he was on the road campaigning for reelection. This resolution was used by President Lyndon Johnson as a basis for widely escalating the war. Gore didn’t come out against the war until it became unpopular with the American people,” Goulden said.
Many Tennesseans recall Al Gore Jr. in 1970 as being a vain man who had lost touch with his constituents. And to make matters even worse in that election, Gore appeared in a campaign commercial shortly before election day dressed as a country squire sitting astride a prancing white horse. To many voters, this was the height of arrogance in a state renowned for its folksy ways and populist heritage.
Shortly after his defeat, Gore was on an airliner flying between Nashville and Washington. Larry Bates, then a member of the Tennessee General Assembly, sat beside him.
“Sen. Gore was a very bitter man, who told me, ‘I’ve served on the committees which handle taxes, and I know every loophole by heart. Since the voters don’t want me anymore, I’m going to take my expertise and make some serious money for myself, my good friend Armand Hammer and Occidental Petroleum,’” Bates said. Bates is now a nationally syndicated radio talk show host based in Memphis.
Gore continued to serve as a buffer between Hammer and J. Edgar Hoover during the last two years of the FBI director’s life. One of the first chores Gore undertook for Occidental was getting the long-term fuel contracts one of its subsidiaries, Island Creek Coal Co., had with the Tennessee Valley Authority, set aside and renegotiated for a higher price. Gore was just the man for the job, having treated the system that generates electrical power at often-inflated rates to seven southern states like a fiefdom since shortly after its inception in 1933.
Gore Sr., and later Gore Jr., routinely named appointees to TVA’s board, influenced lucrative contracts and smoothed the way for campaign contributors who wanted permits for such things as building boat docks and homes along the Tennessee River, its tributaries and man-made waterways controlled by the massive utility and flood control agency. Hammer was so pleased by Gore’s work on this project that he named him executive vice president and director of Island Creek Coal Co. in 1972. Island Creek remains TVA’s top supplier of coal to this day.
Al Gore Sr. also was instrumental in papering over some of Island Creek’s outstanding federal pollution complaints. Al Gore Jr. prospered through his father’s camaraderie with Armand Hammer when the senior Gore purchased an 88-acre mineral-rich farm located just across the Caney Fork River from the Gore estate for $80,000. The former senator paid another $80,000 for the mineral rights and then resold everything at no profit to his son. Occidental then leased back the mineral rights for zinc, shelling out more than $450,000 in zinc royalty payments over the past 25 years.
When Gore Jr. first ran for Congress at age 28 in 1976, Armand Hammer was one of his biggest campaign contributors. According to Micah Morrison, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Hammer, his relatives and employees contributed to Gore Junior’s successful 1990 bid for Senate reelection, and the Hammer family and business associates made donations up to the legal maximum in all of Gore’s campaigns.
Gore Jr. attempted to repay Hammer by inviting him to attend official functions, such as President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. Gore’s father had previously squired Hammer to five earlier inaugurations. Hammer had attended every presidential inauguration since Franklin Roosevelt’s in 1933. Gore Jr. also invited Hammer to President George Bush’s inauguration in 1990. It would be the last such ceremony Hammer attended before his death in December of that year.
Neil Lyndon, who formerly ghosted some of Armand Hammer’s memoirs, wrote in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper after his boss’s death that Gore Jr. regularly dined with Hammer, and that the young lawmaker and his wife, Tipper, frequently attended Hammer’s lavish parties, often jetting around the country on Occidental’s Boeing 727 private jet. The plane was sometimes used by Tipper during her crusade to outlaw violent and salacious music.
In 1988, during his abortive run for the presidency, the 39-year-old Gore again relied on the largesse of Armand Hammer. According to Zelnick, Gore became involved in the Illinois primary against Paul Simon, Jesse Jackson and Michael Dukakis and needed money that the banks wouldn’t lend him. Hammer came through with the funds and personally called Simon, a popular native son, asking him to withdraw and endorse Gore in return for a cabinet level appointment if Gore were elected. Stunned, Simon angrily rejected the offer and won the election. Gore received only a tiny fraction of the vote.
The year before this occurred, Gore flew with Hammer to Moscow to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev. Hammer received a humanitarian award from the International Physicians Against Nuclear War. Gore spoke to the same group, advocating a cut in nuclear weapons. Once Gore and Hammer returned to the U.S., the newly-minted senator continued to laud his benefactor for his patriotism.
Gore invested in Occidental Petroleum. According to Alexander Cockburn writing in The Nation magazine, Gore hiked his investments up to $1 million this year. He also oversees the estimated $500,000 in Occidental stock his father willed to his family when the senior Gore died two years ago. The company has showered the Clinton, Gore and Democratic Party with $470,000 in campaign contributions since 1992.
Gore continued to do huge favors for Occidental even after his father’s and Armand Hammer’s deaths. He finagled to have Occidental receive 78 percent of the oil drilling rights in the once-sacrosanct Elk Hills National Petroleum Reserve outside Bakersfield, Calif., for $3.65 billion. Although the presumption had been that it would cost $4.50 a barrel to extract oil from Elk Hills, Occidental was soon extracting it at a wildly profitable $1.50 a barrel. This oil had been set aside for use by the Navy since 1912. This incursion tripled Occidental’s U.S. petroleum reserves.
Even while protesting that he is a defender of the environment and advocate of preserving tropical rain forests, Gore has positioned himself on the side of Occidental Petroleum and the Los Angeles-based company’s plans to drill on land near a Colombian Indian reservation. Earlier in his campaign, Gore was dogged by protesters upset about his position on this issue. He has steadfastly defended the right of the Columbian government to grant extensive drilling rights to Occidental which might uproot the U’wa people. The U’wa are deeply opposed to the despoliation of their ancient territory and have promised to starve themselves to death if the plan goes forward. There’s a chance all the U.S. military hardware being funneled to Columbia might be used against the Indians if they continue to resist. Police using tear gas have already fought them after they blocked a rural highway near the eastern border with Venezuela to protest Occidental’s plans.
Gore claims that as the custodian of his father’s Occidental stock, his hands are tied.
“I have legal obligations as executor that are very stringent,” Gore told the Associated Press. “If you can find anything wrong with that, please tell me.” Asked if there was anything wrong with his and his father’s lengthy relationship with Occidental and Armand Hammer, Gore replied, “There certainly is not.”
This from a presidential candidate who regularly castigates his opponents, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, for their past associations with “big oil.”