HOUSTON – Rudy Giuliani's law firm has received $100,000 to $200,000 since 2005 to lobby Texas legislators on behalf of Citgo Petroleum Corp., a Houston-based oil company ultimately controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Records with the Texas Ethics Commission show that Shannon H. Ratliff II, an attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani of Houston has been registered to lobby the state legislature for Citgo since April 2005. But David McCollum, a spokesman for Citgo, said the company has had a lobbying contract with the law firm since before Giuliani joined and it was named Bracewell & Patterson.
"I think the only reason this is coming out is because this is a political year, and Mr. Giuliani's name is on the law firm," McCollum said. "But Mr. Giuliani has no personal involvement in this at all . . . If this weren't a political year, this would get no attention at all."
Giuliani is the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
Although Citgo Petroleum is a U.S.-based company, it was bought in 1990 by Petroleos de Venezuela, the national oil company of Venezuela. The Bush administration has criticized Chavez as being uncooperative in the global war on terrorism.
Chavez has become President Bush's most strident critic in Latin America, denouncing the president as "the devil."
Giuliani's campaign said the candidate does no lobbying for Citgo.
"Mayor Giuliani believes Hugo Chavez is not a friend of the United States, and his influence continues to grow because of our increasing reliance on foreign sources of oil," Maria Comella, a campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Bracewell & Giuliani issued a statement, saying the firm has represented Citgo since 2003 on issues related to its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
"Rudy Giuliani has never had any involvement in this representation. Our efforts on behalf of Citgo do not involve the company's political profile in the United States or elsewhere," the company said.
McCollum noted that Citgo Petroleum Corp. employs nearly 4,000 employees in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Georgia and New Jersey. More than 1,200 of those employees are in Houston and Corpus Christi, requiring the company to pay close attention to the actions of the Texas legislature.
"We're in the business of running a business," McCollum said. "And any big business in the state of Texas is going to be concerned about issues that come up in the state legislature that would impact their business ... As far as international politics, we leave that to the politicians."