Book: Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

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This book would not have been possible without the generosity of the scores of people who agreed to provide interviews, sometimes about sensitive or controversial subjects. Some of those to whom I owe the most cannot be named, but I am grateful for their trust and assistance. None of my sources, researchers, or collaborators should be judged accountable for errors or misjudgments in the text; the responsibility is mine.

Steve LeVine, Susan Murcko, and Ann O’Hanlon provided careful, multiple readings of early drafts, made important suggestions, rescued me from errors, and otherwise made the book better.

S. C. Gwynne contributed biographical insights about Lee Raymond and Rex Tillerson early on. Ian Gary generously opened his boxes and files about African oil. Ben Lando conducted interviews and provided insights about Iraq’s oil. Rob McKee and Mike Stinson shared their fascinating diaries and archives about their service as American oil advisers in Baghdad. Chris Goldthwait was equally helpful with his collection of letters from Chad. Dan Freifeld offered valuable insights. Vince Crawley arranged interviews at Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Sally Donnelly was a great help at the Pentagon. Miriam Elder contributed energetically from Moscow. Robert Becker provided excellent legal advice about the Freedom of Information Act. I owe gratitude to Angue Ondo for her aid during my travel to Equatorial Guinea. Sam Olukoya and the resourceful Chris Ewokor assisted my travel in Nigeria. Esseme Eyiboh provided hospitality and high spirits during a memorable journey to Akwa Ibom. In Chad, I owe thanks to Besba Tong-pa Raoutouin, Michelle Bonnardeaux, and Celeste Hicks. In Jakarta and Aceh, Miki Salman and Sidney Jones helped greatly. Alan Jeffers at ExxonMobil endured my inquiries cheerfully.

I again enjoyed the fortune of partnership with Ann Godoff, Susan Petersen Kennedy, and the team at Penguin Press. I have now worked with Ann continually for two decades. As ever, she encouraged the most serious, ambitious work possible, and her editing notes were perceptive and important. Thanks as well to Tracy Locke, Lindsay Whalen, Ben Platt, and Deborah Weiss Geline.

Jon Wallace contributed research, organizational skill, and high morale. Thanks also to Christina Satkowski for her skill and reliability, and to Victoria Collins for her excellent work.

Alexandra Coll, Emma Coll, Maxwell Coll, and Rory Steele helped with research, chronologies, and other aspects of the family business, and were inspiring for many other reasons, too.

During the life of this project, I served as president of the New America Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research institution headquartered in Washington, D.C., with an annual budget of about $16 million. About three fifths of New America’s revenue comes from philanthropic foundations such as the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Macarthur Foundation, the Smith-Richardson Foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, and the Open Society Institute. Most of the rest of the revenue comes from contributions by individual philanthropists, such as Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Jeffrey and Cal Leonard, Gus and Rita Hauser, David and Katherine Bradley, Chip Kaye, William Gerrity, and Boykin Curry. The foundation also receives government grants and corporate donations. For the latest full year available, each of these sources of revenue provided less than 5 percent of the total. During 2009, my colleague Steve Clemons, while overseeing programs on American foreign policy, solicited and received from ExxonMobil two contributions, of $25,000 and $80,000, respectively, to support conferences he ran. I recused myself from those discussions and activities. A full listing of the foundation’s financial supporters is available at www

Colleagues at the New America Foundation contributed to the research and writing of this book in many ways, especially by challenging and refining my understanding of geopolitics, and by generously allowing me the time to travel and interview abroad. Thanks in particular to Simone Frank, Eric Schmidt, and Rachel White; the book would not have been possible without them. Thanks also to Liaquat and Meena Ahmed, Amjad Atallah, Peter Beinart, Peter Bergen, David Bradley, Steve Clemons, Jeannette Clonan, Reid Cramer, Michael Crow, Boykin Curry, Patrick Doherty, James Fallows, Sheri Fink, Brian Fishman, Frank Fukuyama, Joel Garreau, Atul Gawande, Bill Gerrity, Tom Glaisyer, Tim Golden, Eliza Griswold, Lisa Guernsey, Ted Halstead, Rita Hauser, Laurene Powell Jobs, Fred Kaplan, Zachary Karabell, Chip Kaye, Andrew Lebovich, Jeffrey Leonard, Flynt Leverett, Daniel Levy, Michael Lind, Maya MacGuineas, Lisa Margonelli, Andres Martinez, Kati Marton, Danielle Maxwell, MaryEllen McGuire, Walter Russell Meade, Sascha Meinrath, Lenny Mendonca, Evgeny Morozov, Bob Niehaus, Amanda Ripley, Nicholas Schmidle, Troy Schneider, Bernard Schwartz, Sherle Schwenninger, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Katherine Tiedemann, Laura Tyson, Robert Wright, Tim Wu, Dan Yergin, Fareed Zakaria, and Jamie Zimmerman, as well as the many other staff and fellows who saw to my continuing education.

Thanks, at the New Yorker, to David Remnick, Dorothy Wickenden, Nicholas Thompson, Virginia Cannon, Amy Davidson, Pam McCarthy, Nandi Rodrigio, Seema Gauhar, Tim Farrington, Jane Mayer, and Larry Wright, as well as many other terrific colleagues. Thanks as well to Susan Glasser at Foreign Policy, David Plotz and Jacob Weisberg at Slate, Carlos Lozada at the Washington Post, and Robert Silvers at the New York Review of Books.

Melanie Jackson, my literary agent for the past twenty-seven years, again made it all work.

Michael Abramowitz, Luke Albee, Rick Atkinson, Jane Atkinson, Dean Baquet, Phil Bennett, Eric Cohen, Dan Coll, Geoffrey Coll, Steve Fierson, David Finkel, Bart Gellman, Jane Getter, Bradley Graham, the Greenhouses, John Harris, Adam Holzman, Monica Klien-Samanez, Dylan Landis, Dafna Linzer, David Maraniss, Linda Maraniss, the Morrises, Lissa Muscatine, Janice Nittoli, Ama Nkrumah, the Reisses, Joanne Reynolds, Anthony Spaeth, Valerie Strauss, the Tulchins, and Alexandra Viets provided friendship, hospitality, entertainment, and other support to the Colls during the long life of this project. Thanks as well to Robert and Shirley Coll, and to John, Joan, Marian, and Mel. I owe it all again to Susan; her enthusiasm for this work did much to bring the book to the finish.

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