Opinion: Obama meets Pickens on energy, not his Swift Boat financing


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Texas oil and gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens broke post-partisan bread with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama in Reno on Sunday as part of his personal quest to save America’s energy future.

We don’t know if both men walked to the meeting.

Not that the 80-year-old Pickens doesn’t have some ideas, as he has been telling the country in his nonpartisan commercials airing on national television for weeks now and during his recent appearances on cable shows.

A few days ago he also met on energy with the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, John McCain of Arizona,

But long before Pickens went post-partisan, he was, well, partisan to put it politely, Republican partisan to put it bluntly.


Way, way back -- gee, it seems like fully four months ago -- on April 22, 2008, Pickens gave $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee that helps elect GOP congress members but didn’t do a very good job in 2006.

Back even farther than that -- 24 hours earlier, to be precise -- Pickens gave $14,250 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to The Times’ Dan Morain and the records of the Federal Election Commission.

And then there was the $28,500 Pickens gave to the Republican National Committee. But that was a long, long time ago -- Oct. 15, 2007, in the days when Sen. Hillary Clinton’s staff was still planting questions in her forum audiences and the New York Giants hadn’t almost lost then miraculously won the Super Bowl against the New England Losers.

Pickens’ wife, Madeleine Pickens, who keeps a house in....

...La Jolla, has also contributed $28,500 to the RNC.

Pickens was, in fact, among the biggest fund-raisers for Rudolph Giuliani’s failed presidential campaign, probably bundling $1 million from friends, family and business associates. Giuliani, if memory serves, is also GOP.

In this 2008 election cycle, Pickens has directly given more than $80,000 to Republicans, including $2,500 to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, $2,300 each to the newly-indicted Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, plus $2,300 to Brian Bilbray, the San Diego-area Republican congressman.

Pickens made his biggest mark in the 2004 election when he gave $2 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to help finance its damaging attacks on Democratic nominee John Kerry in that year’s presidential race, which created a new verb in the English language: to be swift-boated, as in sunk to the bottom of the sea by assaults on your reputation and character.

That may have made for a somewhat uncomfortable moment for Obama on Sunday, although he was pretty smiley at the event. Before meeting with Pickens in a conference room at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, the two shook post-partisan hands and posed for a few post-partisan pictures.


Then a reporter asked a partisan question: “Senator, how does it feel to be meeting with somebody who tore down your Democratic Party colleague in the last election?”

Obama’s dodgeball answer:

“Ah, you know, he’s got a lot longer track record than that. He’s been doing, ah, he’s a legendary entrepreneur and you know one of the things that I think we have to unify the country around is having an intelligent energy policy.

‘Everybody knows that if we keep on going on the same track that we’re going, that we are giving our wealth away, we’re funding both sides in the war on terror. We’re going to be -- over the long term -- putting enormous pressure on ordinary families here in America who just aren’t going to be able to afford skyrocketing gasoline prices and home heating prices.

‘So this is one of those issues that I think should unify the country. That’s what we’re going to be talking about.’

So bygones are bygones in 2008. At least as far as Obama is concerned. Kerry wasn’t at Sunday’s meeting.

-- Andrew Malcolm