At a “grassroots” rally organized by the American Petroleum Institute in Houston on Tuesday, activists bearing American flags were turned away. Oil company employees were bused in to the “Energy Citizens” gathering to hear billionaire Drayton McLane Jr. attack President Barack Obama’s clean energy agenda as an economy-destroying energy tax. However, grassroots tea-party activists told Public Citizen Texas that they and their American flags were refused entry to the company picnic:
ACTIVIST: They said, “We won’t let you have an American flag either.” They said they won’t let you have this, and then the guy touched this, the American flag.
ANOTHER ACTIVIST: I got an email from Freedomworks saying, “Come, it’s free, free food,” doodah doodah. And then I get here and they say, “Well, it’s against fire code to let people in the door.” And then, they let all these people in. Granted, one of the people was Drayton McLane. He’s got more money than God, so, I guess…
The activists explained that they were invited by Dick Armey’s Astroturf organization Freedomworks, one of the participating organizations in the new Energy Citizens coalition. While the activists were locked out, employees of the public corporations Chevron, Anadarko Energy, Halliburton, ConocoPhillips, and others were “invited to participate” and bused to the event on company time.
At the company picnic, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane defended his billionaire lifestyle, saying, “We need to preserve this way of life.” Inheriting much of his wealth, McLane made billions by selling his grocery business to Wal-Mart. In January 2008, McLane received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service for showing a “deep concern for the common good beyond the bottom line.” National Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Harry Alford, who recently accused Barbara Boxer of racism, was also a featured speaker.