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Coke Director Sam Nunn: A Bad Choice for Obama

June 26, 2008

For further information:
Contact: Pat Clark, Ray Rogers or Lew Friedman, 718 852-2808

The media has suggested on numerous occasions that Senator Barack Obama might choose former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) as his running mate. Sam Nunn's name was mentioned for VP fairly recently by Jimmy Carter as he endorsed Obama for president.

Associated Press reported on June 19: "Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, said members of her caucus asked her to forward the names of Edwards and Nunn when she met Wednesday with Obama's vice presidential search team. The vetting team, Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder, indicated the two were on the list."

It would be a grave mistake for Obama to choose Nunn as Vice President! Nunn's values are contradictory to those expressed by Sen. Obama.

Killer Coke

Coca-Cola Board Memember Sam Nunn

Sam Nunn sits on the boards of four of the most abusive corporations in the world - The Coca-Cola Co., Chevron, General Electric and Dell Computers. All four have shown scant regard for human rights, the environment and/or the labor movement of the countries in which they operate. Yet Nunn has been silent about the abuses of his corporate bedfellows and, of course, is very well compensated as a board member.

The Coca-Cola Co. (Board Member since 1997) is involved in labor and human rights abuses. For example, lawsuits charge that Coke's bottlers in Colombia are involved in the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders ( Coca-Cola is also involved in environmental abuses worldwide including India, Mexico and El Salvador as well as benefiting from the use of hazardous child labor in El Salvador.

The Company also has a history of racial discrimination, fraudulent business practices, tax avoidance and corporate welfare schemes. Multinational Monitor named The Coca-Cola Company in their list of the ten worst corporations of 2004. Does Obama need a top policymaker of a company that has been kicked off at least 50 college and university campuses because of its widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses?

Chevron, (Board Member since 1997) formerly Chevron Texaco, has been accused of abuses around the world (Chevron Texaco: Ecuador's Black Plague), the most infamous are those committed against the indigenous people of Ecuador where there are still outstanding lawsuits against the company.

There is an international campaign calling for Chevron to "Clean Up, Pay Up, Get Out and Stay Out of Ecuador" because of the massive health complications and environmental damage caused by its ruthless exploitation of the land.

Chevron has been accused by villagers in the murders of protesters in Nigeria in 1998 and widespread environmental damage (Bowoto on Chevron in Nigeria.). On May 28, 2008, Larry Bowoto, one of the injured protesters, stated on the 10th anniversary of these killings: "Nigerian security forces hired, paid for and 'closely supervised' by Chevron opened fire on peaceful demonstrators...killing two men and injuring two more. I was shot by soldiers bought and paid for by Chevron. On May 28, 1998, I was on a Chevron oil barge in the Niger Delta. One hundred other villagers were with me. We were unarmed. We were there to protest the loss of our fish, our clean drinking water and our food trees, all of which are taken from us when Chevron pollutes and destroys our homeland..."

Multinational Monitor named Chevron in their list of the ten worst corporations of 1998. Does Obama need a top policymaker of yet another ruthless oil company after eight years of ExxonMobil in the Bush White House? Don't we need to rid the White House of oil men?

General Electric (Board Member since 1997) "has a lengthy record of criminal, civil, political and ethical transgressions, some of them shocking in disregard for the integrity of human beings," according to CorpWatch. GE, a major military contractor profiting from war, pled guilty to defrauding the defense department, paying "one of the largest defense contracting fines ever (Read article in Multinational Monitor). Nunn served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Senate and immediately became a director of GE when leaving the Senate in 1997. Does Obama need a top policymaker of the war profiteers?

Dell Computers (Board Member since 1999) has come under criticism for alleged labor violations in factories producing their computers in China, including wages below the legal minimum, with workers reportedly earning $50 a month, routine work shifts of 15 hours, and poor and unsafe working conditions. Does Obama need a top policymaker profiting from sweatshops?

Sam Nunn joined these boards shortly after leaving the Senate, cashing in on his political influence, and remains on all these boards today. At no time, has Nunn supported shareholder resolutions to end these corporate abuses described above. Nunn, as Obama's running mate, however, would be a signal that Obama was turning a blind eye to the worst of Corporate America.

King & Spalding: Sam Nunn is a retired partner at the Atlanta law firm King & Spalding, a notoriously anti-union law firm, and continues to have an office and an email address there. Nunn became a partner in 1997 shortly after he left the Senate. King & Spalding's website describes their "Traditional Labor Practice":

"...We counsel non-union clients on how to remain union free, and we represent clients in union organizing campaigns and unfair labor practice cases. We have also advised clients with respect to decertifying incumbent labor unions, and have had a number of successful decertifications. We often represent clients in collective bargaining, advise clients on contract interpretation issues, and represent clients in arbitration proceedings pursuant to their collective bargaining agreements. We also actively work with clients facing work stoppages, including training management employees, obtaining injunctive relief where appropriate, and advising clients on replacement of striking workers..."

Under "Preventive Advice and Training" King & Spalding states: "We also conduct training for all levels of employees from executives to staff. These training sessions include: The Manager's and Supervisor's role in Maintaining Union Free Status..."

Some of the clients that King & Spalding have represented include Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., The Coca-Cola Co., Chevron, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil Corp, General Electric Capital Corp., General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Lockheed Martin Corp, SunTrust Banks, Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System.

It should be noted that in 1993 Nunn was a leader of the Senate's drive to keep openly gay people out of the military by taking the press on tours of showers and submarine quarters and firing two staff members who were gay. Although he now supports a review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, he still takes no position on the issue.

And finally, The Coca-Cola Company and General Electric are contributors to the Carter Center. Coke has donated more than $1 million and the Center has, in turn, appointed a Coke executive to its Board of Councilors. There is prima facie conflict of interest in Carter's recommendation of Nunn for VP.

A decision by the Obama campaign to run Nunn for VP would be an indication that his campaign does not take labor, human rights and environmental issues seriously.