Does OPEC want Obama to win?

A lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday alleges the oil cartel is attempting to interfere with the November election. If true, OPEC has sadly misjudged the situation.

Published June 10, 2008 8:45PM (EDT)

Writing in the New York Times, Damien Cave refers to Larry Klayman, a Florida-based lawyer who filed suit against OPEC on Monday, alleging violations of American antitrust laws in the service of "economic terrorism," as a "conservative gadfly."

If I were Cave's editor now, as it was once my privilege to serve, I would likely have added the words "and complete wacko" to the identification of Mr. Klayman. Some might accuse me of bias, since way back in 1998 Klayman, who at that time was pursuing a wide variety of conspiracy theories about the Clinton administration, subpoenaed two Salon reporters. (You can read contemporaneous accounts by Joshua Micah Marshall -- in Salon -- here, and Jacob Weisberg's more unrestrained analysis for Slate here). But I would defend myself on the simple grounds that readers deserve accuracy in reporting. Gadfly just doesn't convey the full litigious fury embodied by Larry Klayman.

I'm also disappointed that Cave did not quote from the text of the complaint that Klayman filed in Miami federal court. There's some really good stuff there!

[Plaintiff] is bringing this lawsuit because of the illegal actions of the defendant, the ORGANIZATION OF PETROLEUM EXPORTING COUNTRIES ("OPEC") which, as a form of economic terrorism, are designed to severely harm the economies of the United States and Western Europe in particular, which Defendant, and its constituent members, view as opposed to their interests in spreading, in the case of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, communism throughout Latin America, and in the case of the Arab members of OPEC such as Saudi Arabia, radical Whahabe and derivative strains of radical Islam in its centuries old struggle for domination over Jews and Christians and Judeo-Christian interests and nation states, such as Israel, in the Middle East and throughout the world. Along with their direct or indirect financial and other support for terrorist groups which they use to further their interests and perpetuate their regimes, the illegal conduct of Defendant, and its constituent members and co-conspirators, is also intended to influence the American Presidential and Congressional elections of 2008 by destabilizing the economy to further their anti-Western and anti-Judeo-Christian agendas.

Some people blanch at how much it costs to fill up their tank, and decide to buy a Prius or ride a bike. Larry Klayman sues OPEC. Judge for yourself who is likely to have more success saving money on his gas bill.

But I'm puzzled. Set aside for the moment the idea that OPEC's production quotas are actually a strategy of jihad. (My own belief is that most OPEC members just want to make more money. It's also possible that some could even be worried at what might happen if they start pumping out their oil as fast as they can and suddenly run out.) The more interesting question, to me, is why OPEC would be interested in influencing American elections.

Klayman must be implying that OPEC wants the Democratic Party to gain power. (High gas prices equal economic distress, distressed Americans vote Democratic, yada yada yada.) But to what end? Is his thesis that an Obama White House and big Democratic majorities in the House and Senate would pass climate change legislation so stringent that the American economy would suffer even more, thus furthering nefarious Arab dreams of a global caliphate built on top of crumbling American empire? That strikes me as a risky gambit. What if a smart cap-and-trade system or carbon tax actually diverted enough investment to renewable fuels and alternative transportation technologies that the U.S. managed to actually wean itself from dependence on foreign oil? That would mean OPEC loses its biggest lever for gaining global domination.

If OPEC's goal is economic chaos then I would assume that OPEC would want to maintain the status quo. The Republicans have done a great job of steering the economy off a cliff. If OPEC really wants to create havoc in the West, then it should be doing everything in its power to ensure that John McCain wins the White House. Sure, he has his own plan to stop global warming, but it's weak tea compared with Democratic rhetoric.

I just don't think Larry Klayman has thought this whole thing through.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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