(CNSNews.com) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition have targeted oil giant British Petroleum in their latest high-dollar shakedown, an organization that monitors corporate ethics said Thursday.
Despite the fact that BP was a "Bronze Sponsor" of the Coalition's 35th annual conference held this week in Chicago, Jackson announced that he was returning the company's $10,000 donation as part of a boycott to demand greater minority involvement in the corporation's business practices.
Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) was not impressed with Jackson's gesture.
"It is pretty obvious what is going on here," Flaherty stated. "BP sponsors Jesse Jackson's conference at the $10,000 level, but the company is certainly capable of a lot more. No doubt, Jackson seeks to upgrade them to the $150,000 'Platinum Sponsor' level for next year.
"Nobody likes being called a racist for obvious reasons, but instead of these corporations defending themselves and standing up for themselves, they basically just want to buy off the enemy," Flaherty added.
In addition, any money BP spends to stay in Jackson's favor would be wasted, Flaherty said.
"Jesse Jackson is bluffing a foreign company," Flaherty noted. "He has virtually no ability to affect the consumer habits of Americans, or even African-Americans.
"The reason he is going after BP is the same reason he threatened a boycott of Toyota in 2001," Flaherty said. "Executives of foreign companies are often under the misimpression that Jesse Jackson still commands wide respect in this country."
Jackson claims that while British Petroleum gets 30 percent of the money African-Americans spend on gas, BP has few minorities in executive positions and few African-American distributors. In addition, fewer than 20 of its 13,000 retail stations in the United States are owned by blacks.
"We don't want charity, we want parity," Jackson noted. "We are challenging the petroleum industry. We want equity and parity and access to distributorships."
British Petroleum spokesman Scott Dean said that Jackson is underestimating the number of minorities employed by and contracted with the company.
"BP has been making tremendous strides in increasing our representation of minorities in wide aspects of our businesses," Dean said.
While Jackson said that none of British Petroleum's gas distributors is African-Americans, Dean responded that about 20 percent of its independent BP and ARCO dealers come from minority groups, and two members of the company's board of directors are black.
In addition to ignoring the Rainbow/PUSH-led boycott, BP should end its financial support of Jackson, Flaherty stated.
"The New York Stock Exchange and several companies are now saying 'no' to Jesse Jackson," Flaherty said, and "there has been no retribution or negative consequences of any kind."
However, Jackson noted that the boycott is also the beginning of an attack on high gas prices and excessive profits in the oil industry.
"You keep gouging gas. We're going to drive down the price of gas," Jackson said. "We're going to fight back. We intend to march on BP until they bring the price down.
"We don't need BP. There is another station around the corner," Jackson added. "The cost of energy is undermining America's living standards. That's why we're going to confront British Petroleum, and then on to Exxon and Shell."
Still, the oil industry wasn't Jackson's only target during this week's convention, which had "A More Perfect Union: Free But Not Equal" as its theme and featured such speakers as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Rev. Al Sharpton, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
The PUSH president said he was also going to "confront the mass media in bicultural joint negotiations" regarding diversity in TV and radio news as part of an effort to bring together black and Hispanic groups on issues they have in common in the wake of recent immigration controversies.
CNN spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg responded in a statement that her network "is committed to offering a wide range of voices on our air and in the selection of stories we report every day. This is a priority for us not just domestically, but also around the world and across all of our platforms."
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Jackson has been called a "shakedown artist" and a "racketeer" for criticizing companies' minority hiring policies, then ending his complaints after those corporations begin donating to projects sponsored by Rainbow PUSH.
Among the companies Jackson and his organization have had financial dealings with are Coca-Cola, NASCAR, Wall Street, General Electric and DaimlerChrysler.
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.