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Once a Swift Boat Ad Funder, Now Giving Millions to Energy Ads

T. Boone Pickens in his Dallas office, August 31, 2004. (Associated Press)

By Matthew Mosk
The way Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens recalls it, he was sitting in a Dallas conference room earlier this year with other wealthy Republicans, discussing plans for financing an ad campaign to support Sen. John McCain's bid for president, when it hit him -- ending the nation's dependence on foreign oil was more important than who reaches the White House in 2008.

Pickens helped fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercials that helped defeat Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry in 2004, but while sitting in that May meeting, he decided to take a different tack for 2008: "I told the group, 'I'm out.'"

"I'm out of that," Pickens said in a lengthy interview this morning about his new mission to make ending dependence on foreign oil a national priority. "This is more important. I'm 80 years old and I told them, 'This is my mission.'"

Four years ago, Pickens said he got involved in defeating Kerry because "You're looking at what George Soros is doing on the other side, and thinking, 'What can we do to offset this?'"

This time, he said he did not feel that pressure. Instead of getting involved in an independent advertising campaign to help McCain, Pickens says he will devote $58 million to the ongoing ad campaign to promote his energy plan. He's doing it, he says, in hopes that both presidential candidates, and members of congress, will put this issue on the front burner.

"This is a real 527," Pickens said, referring to the tax designation given to independent political groups. "This is a lone wolf 527 that's absolutely nonpartisan."

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 21, 2008; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  The Green Zone  
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Boone Pickens who funded Swift Boat ads against John Kerry met this morning with presumptive GOP nominee John McCain this morning in Aspen. As an Aspen journalist, I covered John McCain's interview by Walter Isaacson yesterday at Aspen Institute. McCain kept hitting on the words "energy independence." Pickens's influence on McCain was readily apparent. It's interesting that the two are meeting, along with other GOP heavyweights in a location that went 70 percent for Kerry in 2004.
Sterling Greenwood
Aspen Free Press

Posted by: AspenFreePress | August 15, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the post

Posted by: HumDActuct | August 10, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Two cheers for Pickens' plan. Replacing fossil fuels with renewables is crucial for our future. But he fails to recognize the considerable role that nuclear power must play in that future. Also, using natural gas for transportation other than fleet vehicles would require building considerable more distribution and retailing infrastructure, and is not likely to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

In any case, follow the money. We can't trust anything that welsher says until he pays off his Swift Boat bet.

Posted by: richard schumacher | July 25, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

It is truly sad that, in reading the comments on the article, that so much energy is wasted on rehashing the past (presumably by those who support a candidate that so represents an effort to break from just that kind of thing) and so little, almost nothing, in fact, is spent on debating the merits of the proposal.

Can there be any doubt that we spend too much on foreign oil and that to continue to do only at our own peril? Does not the plan Mr. Picken's has outlined, at the very least, offer a potential solution to this situation that merits serious consideration?

That Mr. Pickens may have supported causes and candidates in the past that you find repugnant automaticaly disqualify him from offering any possible solution to the problem?

It is sad, dare I say pathetic, that this is the level of discourse we have descended to. If all those who summarily dismiss this plan as driven by an the so-called evil motivation of greed I can only wonder what plan that can actually start to be implemented NOW they would offer as an alternative?

At least the Democratic leadership is recognizing there are merits to be considered and, as a long time Repblican supporter, I applaud them for taking a bold risk in potentially alinating their base of support from those who seem to have nothing to offer but more of the sort of character assigination they, ironically, so vehemently denounce and offer as justification for not debating the plan on its merits.

Bipartisonship take two sides to work I for one trust that the vast majority of people in this country are sick of the same old childish fingerpointing.

Posted by: Richard Bibb | July 23, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

If we're going to address the energy crisis we're going to have to work together, we can't write off someone just because they have business interests or are affiliated with a different political party.

This issue is bigger than our old differences.

Posted by: Steve | July 22, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

These comments are repulsive, T. Boone is putting his money where is mouth is and actually investing over $2 Billion in Wind and telling the country we're in an emergency that we can't drill our way of.

I respect the issues you may have with his past, but look at his plan on its merits instead of making knee-jerk comments.

Posted by: Bob | July 22, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

If he is serious (and it appears to be), bravo for being on the right side of the issue, for a change.

Posted by: 2008 | July 22, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

To bad he didn't opt out in 2004. We would have had a country on the right track and we would be out of Iraq.
So, he helped slander Senator Kerry because of Soros? How sad.

Posted by: Margie V | July 21, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

The jury is still out for me. The first ad appears to be nonpartisan, and if the follow ups truly challenge America to invest in wind, solar and other renewable energy sources then I'll applaud the effort. If this is just an entree to more "let's rape the Alaskan wilderness and pristine American coasts" then I'll know it's just a different type of swiftboating. Mr. Pickens' past efforts don't make me a fan or willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (remember a month ago refusing to pay on the lost bet to the ReAL swiftboat veterans)? So for me, it's wait and see.

Posted by: straight talk my a** | July 21, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

T. Boone Pickens.....a real life Montgomery Burns, but with no class or intellect.

Posted by: Playa | July 21, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Pickens is doing what Exxon should have been doing for years - setting their sights on the next big thing. The only way to secure the liquidity of an industry based on finite resources is to invest in the future exploitation of a different resource.

The other option is to blindly drill yourself out of business - with no plan B.

Posted by: StrayDog | July 21, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

T. Boone Pickens is one of the most corrupt and loathsome oilmen in the world. He has always been noted for his greed, his dishonesty and his support for right wing causes. Don't buy his baloney claiming that he has seen the light. He is a selfish old man eager to make even more money than he always had. He's been a liar and a thief all his life and still is.

Posted by: David S. Robins | July 21, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Heck T. Boone - don't blame ya' man - I wouldn't/couldn't back McCain either!

Posted by: JDB | July 21, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

once a repug... always a repug. He just wants to make more money. As Montgomery (Monty) Burns likes to say... " Smithers, I'd trade it all away for a little more".

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | July 21, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

HOLY BIGOTS, BATMAN! Look at the Liberal Left a**holes lining up to criticize Mr. Pickens. I guess, once a Billary lover, always a Billary lover.

Let's change that...


Posted by: Ben Dover | July 21, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

This is just another swift boat ploy - I wouldnt touch this guy with a 100' windmill!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I am voting for Obama...however I think the comments in here have been made by small-minded liberal bigots (is there any other kind, one might ask). I have seen Pickens' commercial twice now, and he is playing it straight. Let the man do penance for past sins! After all, Obama forgave Hillary, and she was meaner than any Swiftboater around. Listen to Pickens and you will see (if you park your bias in the garage for a few minutes) that he is a Patriot first, and Republican second in this endeavor.

Posted by: Daddio on the Paddio | July 21, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I see Pickens being honest about his rhetoric. He already has made billions off of oil and gas and at 80-years of age wants to make amends. Pickens is aware that his legacy at this point would be that he made billions from the oil era and "swift-boated" the guy who could have became president in 2004.

A number of GOP financial supporters and strategists have opted out of the GOP's desire to negatively run against Obama. Seeing the mess GW Bush and his administration has created over the last 7 years and the energetic and positive campaign that Obama has run has pushed many GOP operatives to want to be like Obama and have positive change. They may not vote for Obama, but they also do want to be known "historically" for slamming and sliming Obama.

Posted by: Obama-Junkie | July 21, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

This guy is a scumbag swift boater! He is about as low as you can get.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 21, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm constantly amused by the inordinate amount of attention the right gives George Soros. You'd think, by all their whining and complaining, that he was single-handedly responsible for the death of Ronald Reagan. Why does one guy generate so much animosity? Is it because he decided to not follow in lock-step with the rest of the country's billionaires and support Republican causes? It's just silly to me.

Posted by: ManUnitdFan | July 21, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

So he means to say that he's done publicly funding them. Hard to believe he won't hand some wads under a table to bring down Obama. I'm not buying those silly energy ads...

Posted by: matt | July 21, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Where was the post article declaring:

"Once known as Mr. Enron, corrupt politician now spearheading Sen. McCain's economic policy"

As for Mr. Pickens, this is the equivalent of a deathbed environmental conversion and absolution for one of the world's great environmental sinners.

Those guys in Dallas knew, thirty years ago, what the right thing to do for the environmental challenges. Dead fish were turning up in rivers the morning after acid rains. But they did nothing about it. Just like they knew that we should have freely given rights to blacks all along.

America has failed to lead the world in a moral, progressive direction for the past 40 years. It's time for these old guys to admit they were wrong and *get off the stage* so that we can make a clean break from our dirty past.

Posted by: JR, Boston | July 21, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

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