Oil for Prophets

Lost in the controversy over Pat Robertsons call to assassinate a foreign leader is the reverends role in the local oil business

But the American Petroleum Institute called the allegations unfounded. Robertson did not help his cause by declining to identify the banks that supposedly refused to loan him money. He couldn't even come up with the names of the oil companies he claimed were behind CENCO's downfall. However, investigative reporters, wondering how the plant snagged early AQMD support, discovered a business partnership between Robertson, the district's then-chairman William Burke and Liberia's brutal leader Charles Taylor in a gold-extraction operation in that African country. Powerine's former employees, land surveyors and even the lawyers who'd represented CENCO in court later sued Robertson for back pay and/or unpaid bills.

After three years, Robertson claimed that a company rep dispatched to Orange County had concluded that his Southern California holdings were "real-estate deals," not energy operations. "This refinery will never, ever be switched on again," Robertson sheepishly vowed before quickly changing the name CENCO (emphasis on "sin") to the friendlier-sounding Lakeland Development Co.

But let it be duly noted that there's no evidence Pat Robertson ever called for the assassination of any bankers or oil execs.

A version of this story originally appeared Aug. 24 in the online column A Clockwork Orange.

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