Corporate Citizenship -- The Most Dangerous Game

I got a call last night from a marketing firm asking to do a survey. I try always to do them to see if I can ascertain who is up to what and what they're trying to find out. It's given me some pretty good material in the past (like this report on the Republican messaging machine) and so it's always something I enjoy.

And I'll be up front about this: I lied in order to do the survey.

They asked if I was a journalist or the media in anyway and I said no. I'm an evil and dishonest person, apparently. But it was a white lie that I can bring you the news with, so I think the net positive to society is worth it.

This particular poll seemed to be taken on by a major American oil refiner looking to spread their greasy claws into the pristine natural open spaces of the Utah wilderness. The poll was very up front and one of the first questions they asked was very blunt: "If Chevron were working for a law in the state of Utah that would allow them to do more drilling and oil exploration, would you vote for it?"

Of course my answer was no.

Though this one question said a lot about their upcoming battle plans, the rest of the poll tells even more about the insidious nature of their plot.

The next ten minutes was spent having me explain my feelings about various oil companies, explain any knowledge I had of spills in the country anywhere outside of the gulf, and to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 different social programs in my community that would most benefit visible donations and grants from Chevron in order to bolster my support of their initiative.

"How beneficial would programs to support the homeless would be in your community, should Chevron choose to support it?"

"...teachers and education..."

"...substance abuse programs..."

"...the arts..."

And on and on and on.

To anyone with an ounce of critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills the scenario is clear here. Chevron (and they were specifically mentioned throughout the rest of the poll, so I think it's safe to assume it's them) is planning on launching a bid to get access to more of the natural resources in the sacred parts of the state of Utah and want to bolster their public support before they launch by dropping a string of donations around town.

They have a big problem though (and this is where all the need for marketing more than usual comes in) in that they were responsible for an oil spill in Salt Lake City just this summer. 30,000 gallons of oil were dumped into Salt Lake City's waterways and they were collected in the Liberty Park pond, a jewel of our city (that I happen to live 5 blocks away from.) To their credit they've been very forthcoming about the clean up and claims, but who wants to risk them pouring more oil into our waterways by opening more space up for them?

And I hope that by illuminating this poll, I can eliminate some of the naivete that people have in thinking that companies can be "good corporate citizens" on their own. They care about their bottom line and will write checks to your schools, parks, homeless shelters, and art programs all day long if it will get them closer to the profit and resources they desire.

They are vultures, make no mistake.

Knowing that these sorts of ruminations are afoot will help us combat this sort of reckless corporate bribery in the future.

Bryan Young is the producer of Killer at Large.

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