The Tillerson Reveal: Tax Evasion and a Russian Connection

If Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is confirmed after this latest news, it will mean Republicans have no shame at all:

Rex Tillerson, the businessman nominated by Donald Trump to be the next US secretary of state, is the long-time director of a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas, leaked documents show.

Tillerson – the chief executive of ExxonMobil – has been a director of the oil company’s Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, since 1998. His name – RW Tillerson – appears next to other officers who are based at Houston, Texas; Moscow; and Sakhalin, in Russia’s far east.

The leaked 2001 document comes from the corporate registry in the Bahamas. It was one of 1.3m files given to the Germany newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source. The registry is public but details of individual directors are typically incomplete or missing entirely.

I would feel a little bit bad about using anonymously leaked documents to discover how our new overlords are abusing us, but….well, you know.

So, let’s see. Oil company CEO? Check. Direct ties to Russian oligarchs? Check. Using a Caribbean tax haven to cheat taxes? Check.

We know that a few GOP Senators were opposing Tillerson before this leak: McCain, Rubio, and Graham have all had their concerns because of the Russian connection. All it would take to derail the nomination would be three Republicans, assuming Democrats hold a firm party line–which given all of Tillerson’s problems shouldn’t be too challenging.

The question is whether more Senators on the right will come forward against Tillerson based on these leaks. In a normal political system with a normal political party we would expect to see that. But Republicans are not a normal political party these days, and neither use of international tax havens nor ties to dictators seem to bother them. Nor, apparently, having an oil company CEO with no previous diplomatic experience acting on behalf of the nation itself.

If the Republican Senate does confirm Tillerson, it will signify a final surrender to Trump, with all that entails. And then all that remains is resistance and accountability in 2018 and 2020.

 

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.