A Sioux Version Of Occupy Wall Street

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

In our new political world, the phrase "follow the money" has real meaning. Consider the $1,530,000 that, according to OpenSecrets.org, billionaire Kelcy Warren has personally given away in the 2016 election cycle to influence your vote (or someone's vote anyway). One hundred percent of his dollars, just in case you were curious, have gone to "conservative" candidates, including key congressional Republicans. Warren is a Texas oil pipeline magnate who's wildly rich. According to the Wall Street Journal, "his 23,000-square-foot Dallas mansion, bought for $30 million in 2009, includes a bowling alley and a baseball diamond that features a scoreboard with 'Warren' as one of the teams." As Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies wrote recently, "With business partner Ray Davis, co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, Warren built Energy Transfer Equity into one of the nation's largest pipeline companies, which now owns about 71,000 miles of pipelines carrying natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products, and crude oil. The company's holdings include Sunoco, Southern Union, and Regency Energy Partners."

And as Dr. Seuss used to say, that is not all, oh no, that is not all! Don't forget Energy Transfer Partners, part of the Energy Transfer Equity empire. It's building the embattled Dakota Access Pipeline, which is supposed to bring fracked oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast. Through a PAC, it has given at least $288,000 to a bevy of Republican House and Senate candidates. In other words, election 2016 will, among other things, be an oil spill of an election. And should Donald Trump, a man who gives "conflict of interest" new meaning, take the Oval Office by storm and so ride to the rescue of the oil and coal magnates of America with his drill-baby-drill environmental policies, that "investment" will matter even more.

In the meantime, Warren's latest project -- that pipeline across the Dakotas -- has run smack into resistance of an unexpected kind as it approached the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Faced with the prospect of fracked oil in their drinking water, the tribe rallied other tribes (including tribes of environmentalists) and, as of this moment, has miraculously stopped the pipeline dead in its tracks. Think of what's been going on as an Indian version of Occupy Wall Street. As environmentalist Chip Ward points out today in "Indians and Cowboys: Last Stand At Standing Rock," Native Americans, long ago discarded as the dispossessed and forgotten losers of American culture, have returned with a vengeance to protect not just the last wild places on our continent but the rest of us as well. It's one hell of a story and on an overheating planet that, as is increasingly said, needs to "keep it in the ground," it's not just a heartwarming tale, but a matter of life or death.