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Peters won’t sell stock in oil company

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Southfield – — U.S. Rep. Gary Peters has no intention of selling stock in an oil company that produces a petroleum byproduct he has sought to regulate, despite criticism he’s taking from Republicans in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race over his personal investments.

Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said Saturday he won’t sell the $19,000 in stock he owns of Total S.A., a French energy company that produces the petroleum coke substance that Peters once called “dirtier than the dirtiest fuel.”

Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s campaign charges Peters’ investment runs counter to the public war he waged last year over a pile of pet coke stored near the banks of the Detroit River.

“Am I going to sell it? I have no plans of it, no,” Peters told The Detroit News after speaking at the Michigan Democratic Party’s African-American alliance breakfast in Southfield. “It is an investment in the fourth largest oil company in the world. It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation.”

Total produces pet coke at an oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

Trailing Peters in most public opinion polls, Land has zeroed in on her opponent’s personal investment in an oil company as environmental groups have launched a series of TV ads trying to tie her to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, whose pet coke pile in Detroit was the source of Peters’ ire last year.

“She’s trying to distract from the fact that the Koch brothers, who are responsible for piling up pet coke along the Detroit River, blowing into people’s homes, blowing into the Great Lakes, that they’ve invested $6.5 million in her campaign,” Peters said.

Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, two out-of-state groups funded in part by the Koch brothers, spent $5.1 million through Labor Day on TV ads attacking Peters’ record in Congress, according to spending data compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Land’s current TV ads claims Peters is “hoping to profit from pollution.”

Last year, Peters earned between $201 and $1,000 in dividends on the Total S.A. stock, according to his 2013 financial disclosure on file with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republicans also are criticizing Peters for owning stock in two health care companies that have re-incorporated outside the country to dodge U.S. taxes on overseas earnings.

Peters owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Medtronic Inc. and between $1,000 and $15,000 of stock in AbbVie Inc. Both companies are pursuing so-called “inversion” strategies to reduce their U.S. tax liability.

“It’s clear that stocks that I may have in my retirement account have nothing to do with my public positions that I take,” Peters said. “I’ve been outspoken on inversion, we need to change the law. I co-sponsored legislation to do that. I introduced legislation to say we have to figure out ways to store pet coke properly to make sure we’re using best practices, we have to regulate it.”

Peters noted he co-sponsored a bill to end the practice of corporate inversion. He also co-sponsored legislation regulating the storage of pet coke.

“I make my decisions based on what’s best for Michigan and what’s best for the country ... not looking at some shares of stock I may have for retirement,” Peters told The News.

Peters’ personal financial disclosure document shows he earned between $201 and $1,000 on his Medtronic stock last year, but recorded no profits from his stock in AbbVie in 2013.

“This is just a typical Washington politician practicing ‘do as a I say not as I do,’ ” Land spokeswoman Heather Swift said Sunday. “All I see is Gary Peters’ hypocrisy. He hosts press events and stunts to speak out against pet coke and then invests in pet coke.”

clivengood@detroitnews.com