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Smear, Inc: After Years of Smearing Chevron, Donziger and Team Take Aim at Judges and Journalists

Date: Sep 29, 2014

For over two decades Steven Donziger and co-conspirators have operated a smear campaign against Chevron – and anyone who would not do their bidding – in an attempt to pressure the company into a settlement.

Despite being found to have committed bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice and witness tampering in March, in what U.S. Federal District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan called “egregious fraud” against Chevron, Mr. Donziger and his allies have expanded their smear campaign to include judges and journalists.

Smearing Judges

In advance of, and throughout, the racketeering trial against him, Donziger and his team launched a legal and public relations offensive to impugn the reputation of Judge Kaplan, claiming he was “intellectually dishonest” and that his decisions “reflect his deep-seated bias”, accusing him of a “wildly unbalanced approach” in discovering the truth.

Donziger and the Ecuadorian plaintiff’s teams even went so far as to try to have Kaplan removed from the case — a move that was unanimously rejected by a federal appeals court only hours after the arguments were heard.

When Judge Kaplan issued his nearly 500-page decision finding that Donziger and his associates committed fraud, it was no surprise that Donziger’s team would attack the judge again, accusing him of “implacable hostility”.

But Donziger’s attacks were not limited to Judge Kaplan. In 2000, he attempted to remove another federal judge, Jed S. Rakoff, who was presiding over a similar case filed in New York. Outtakes from the movie Crude show Donziger calling Judge Rakoff “corrupt” and “totally biased”.

Smearing Journalists

Journalists have also been professionally targeted in the most personal terms by Donziger’s smear campaign, including three respected veteran legal reporters. Paul Barrett of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Roger Parloff of Fortune and Michael Goldhaber of The American Lawyer have been covering the Ecuador litigation for years, and most recently covered the racketeering trial against Donziger on a daily basis.

It seems as though any reporter who simply reported on the trial, the evidence presented and Judge Kaplan’s ruling is now in the sites of the Donziger smear campaign. As New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote recently, “With every critic, Donziger and his allies have replied the same way: The critics have been corrupted by the evil Chevron.”

Paul Barrett, Businessweek and author of The Law of the Jungle (Random House):

Donziger says Barrett’s book about the case is “fundamentally dishonest” and that it goes “well beyond the boundaries governing journalistic ethics.” He claims Barrett plagiarized material and that the book is filled with “errors, shoddy research, and made up scenes.” He also claims Barrett’s research for the book was both “shoddy” and “lazy”. On September 17, Donziger issued a press release threatening Barrett and his publisher with a defamation lawsuit.

Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer and author of Crude Awakening:

Donziger and his team allege Goldhaber’s reporting on this case is misleading, claiming he “omits much and presents only one side”. They have also attacked Goldhaber by saying “acting as jury and judge, [Goldhaber] convicted the Ecuadorians and their lawyers a long time ago in his columns…”

Roger Parloff, Fortune:

In his review of Barrett’s and Goldhaber’s books, Chevron and Ecuador: 2 books and a smear campaign, Fortune’s Parloff writes: “In fact, both Goldhaber and Barrett deserve commendation for ever having enlisted for the project of writing about this case. It had to have been clear from the outset that anyone who did so conscientiously—a task that would necessarily include discussing the overwhelming evidence of Donziger’s use of mendacity and intimidation to achieve his goals—would end up being tarred with baseless attacks on their integrity emanating from Donziger’s camp. (A Google search of my own name—for I, too, have been writing about this case for the past four years—usually turns up at least two of these retaliatory, search-optimized, diatribes.)”

As for the attacks by Donziger against Barrett, Parloff writes: “But if Barrett does sometimes give Donziger’s bare accusations too much credence, it’s unlikely he will make the same mistake again in the future, because Donziger is now dishing out unsubstantiated smears at Barrett himself in an effort to dissuade people from reading or crediting his book.”

That piece put Parloff in Donziger’s cross hairs. Soon after the book review ran, Donziger’s smear campaign swung into action calling Parloff a “full throttled apologist” for Chevron. Donziger’s team issued a blog post questioning his journalistic credentials stating, “What Parloff won’t tell his Fortune audience is how unqualified he and Barrett are to serve as judge and jury about the Ecuador matter or Donziger’s role.”

Joe Nocera, New York Times:

Legal journalists are not the only targets. Just days after Nocera wrote a column in the New York Times condemning Donziger’s behavior, Donziger’s team issued a blog post attacking Nocera’s credibility, declaring: “We have long known business writer Joe Nocera to be the resident lightweight of the NYT op-ed page.” The post went on to float a conspiracy theory, stating, “Nocera is also friends with Fortune writer Roger Parloff, another full-throated advocate for Chevron trying to masquerade as an independent journalist.”

Donziger and his allies have resorted to fraud, extortion and character assassination because the facts were never on their side. If they had the facts on their side, they would not have needed to set up secret bank accounts, pay bribes, ghostwrite court reports, forge signatures on scientific reports, ghostwrite an Ecuadorian judgment, attempt to cover up the acts or attack the integrity and reputation of every person who has reviewed the facts as they are, not as Steven Donziger wants them to be.