The Kennedy family name still carries a lot of weight in American politics and pop culture. An influence that may even have a price tag.
A New York Post report alleges that Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's daughter, John F. Kennedy's niece and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's ex-wife, was secretly hired by a lawyer representing Ecuador and paid up to millions for her public advocacy against damage to oil-drilled rain forests in the country now involved in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Chevron. The New York Post writes:
"Kennedy, 52, was secretly hired as a 'public-relations consultant' by the lawyer representing the Ecuadoreans in an $18 billion lawsuit against Chevron, according to court documents.
Cashing in on her respected family name and legacy, Kennedy raked in tens of thousands of dollars and was given a 0.25 percent stake — worth as much as $40 million — if the $18 billion judgment handed down by an Ecuadorean judge is ultimately upheld. (Chevron has not yet paid pending its countersuit in Manhattan federal court.)
Kennedy was paid a flat $50,000 by lead attorney Steven Donziger on Feb. 22, 2010, bank statements made public in the case show.
She was set to pull down an additional $10,000 per month, according to a September 2010 draft budget by the law firm. And she was to get another $40,000 in expenses in June 2010, according to an invoice from Donziger."
Kennedy appeared on CNN on Oct. 22, 2009, and wrote a column for the Huffington Post on Nov. 4, 2009, where she wrote about what she saw on her trip to the South American nation.
“Nothing could prepare me for the horror I witnessed,” Kennedy wrote, as the Post notes that it was never mentioned in media appearences that she was hired by the law firm or has a financial stake in the case.
"We--consumers investors, elected officials, journalists, activists, and citizens--must hold Chevron accountable for its actions, and see that justice is done," Kennedy went on to write.
Kennedy is a human rights advocate serving as president for the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights.
The issue Kennedy was lobbying for involved damage oil companies have caused to the Ecuadorean town of Lago Agrio, where 1,700 square miles of rain forest have been destroyed and people sickened. In 1993, 30,000 villagers sued Texaco for dumping crude oil and emitting toxins into the watershed and air while drilling 325 wells. The Post reports that Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and has already completed a $40 million cleanup, approved by the Ecuadorean government.
Kennedy did not return calls or e-mails from the Post seeking comment.