Trump secretary of state nominee claims he had ‘no knowledge’ of Exxon’s lobbying related to Russia sanctions

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Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, listens to speakers on September 23, 2009 on a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York, New York.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

ExxonMobil CEO and Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson said during his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that he had “no knowledge” of Exxon’s lobbying efforts against US sanctions on Russia.

“Sanctions are a powerful tool and they’re an important tool in terms of deterring additional action,” Tillerson told the lawmakers.

A lobbying disclosure form from 2014, unearthed by Salon writer Simon Maloy, states that Exxon engaged in lobbying “related to Energy Sanctions in the Ukraine and Russia” in 2014, shortly after the US sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea and its incursion into eastern Ukraine.

Politico noted last month that Tillerson was on the board of the US-Russia Business Council, through which Exxon sometimes lobbied against US sanctions on Russia.

Exxon, under Tillerson, enagaged in lobbying related to US sanctions several times between 2006 and 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau wrote on Twitter.

One 2010 disclosure form lists a lobbying effort related to the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which penalizes companies with investments of $20,000,000 or more in Iran’s energy sector. The company also engaged in lobbying related to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, according to the form.

USA Today reported on Monday that ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan in 2003, 2004, and 2005 through Infineum, in which ExxonMobil owned a 50% share at the time.

A spokesman for Exxon said that the company “provided information of the impact of the sanctions, but did not lobby against the sanctions.”

Tillerson was grilled in a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday about the potential conflicts of interests he faces as a result of his company’s extensive global operations. The company produces oil and gas in 22 countries, and Tillerson owns company shares worth $180 million, according to a report produced by the left-leaning Center for American Progress on Tuesday.

Tillerson has promised to sever ties with Exxon if he is confirmed by the Senate, in exchange for a payout that matches the value of his shares. But he faced questions during the hearing about his personal ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, whom the US intelligence community said last week ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at diminishing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential election.

Tillerson, whose relationship with the Kremlin dates back to the early 1990s, has struck several major deals with the Russian state-run corporation Rosneft and received the prestigious Order of Friendship award from Putin in 2013.