Flores Threatens Legal Action Over Edwards Political Ad

By: Poltico.com
By: Poltico.com

Texas Republican congressional candidate Bill Flores says Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards’s new attack ad is false and defamatory — and Flores is willing to go to court to prove it.

Edwards’s new ad accuses Flores of being responsible for thousands of job losses. “Bill Flores says his energy companies created over 500 jobs. What he doesn’t say is that an oil company he helped run laid off over 3,000 workers and then paid off its top executives with millions,” the narrator says.

That’s flat wrong, says Flores, who is challenging the 10-term Edwards in a tight race for Texas’s 23rd District seat. The district, which includes Waco and former President George W. Bush’s ranch, is heavily Republican — and Edwards has become an improbable Democratic survivor.

Flores held a conference call with reporters Tuesday specifically to refute the ad.

“This is an outright false and defamatory ad. This is intended to try to damage my reputation,” Flores said. “As everybody knows, there are laws that protect people from wanton damage to people’s reputation, and we’re looking at all of our opportunities to defend my reputation in this case.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Flores had released two signed affidavits from former co-workers pledging that he had nothing to do with job losses at the company.

The ad’s claim centers on Flores’s role as the chief financial officer at Western Atlas, an oil field services company. In May 1998, Western Atlas announced plans to merge with another company, Baker Hughes.

Baker Hughes lost at least $549 million in 1998, SEC filings show, and laid off 3,400 employees as a result. The filing also shows that Baker Hughes laid off 170 employees who became “redundant” as a result of the merger.

Flores was actually one of the executives who was laid off after the two companies merged. As Western Atlas's CFO, he did play a key role in orchestrating Baker Hughes’s acquisition of the company he worked for — that’s why, Edwards’s campaign says, he is responsible for the thousands of job losses.

The Edwards campaign also points to documents that show Flores remained with Baker Hughes to work on special projects through the end of 1998, and that his position included authority over mergers and acquisitions.

But James Brasher, formerly Western Atlas's general counsel, wrote in an affidavit Tuesday that the job changes were the result of a bad economy — and that Flores would not have had the authority to authorize the layoffs either way.

“The terminations were the direct result of poor industry conditions, not [Baker Hughes’s] acquisition of [Western Atlas],” Russell stated in the affidavit. “Mr. Flores had no management authority at [Baker Hughes] or [Western Atlas] following the acquisition … and he had no role or authority in the decision to terminate [Baker Hughes] or [Western Atlas] employees following the Acquisition.”

Flores spokesman Matt Mackowiak said the Republican nominee is considering “a full range of legal options, including a lawsuit,” and that they will ultimately demand that the Edwards campaign do more than just pull the ads off the air.

“Bill's reputation has already been damaged by these false and defamatory claims, and simply pulling the ad at this point is not a sufficient remedy,” Mackowiak said. “Our demand letter will include additional demands, and those demands will be shared with the press once we've had the opportunity to put the Edwards campaign on proper notice.”

The ads began airing on Friday, before the start of Labor Day weekend. Edwards spokeswoman Megan Jacobs said the campaign has no plans to stop airing the ad based on Flores’s accusations, and that the campaign has yet to receive a letter detailing Flores’s demands.

Edwards’s campaign also demanded that Flores release his 1998 and 1999 tax returns — a move that would reveal how much compensation Flores received after he was laid off from Western Atlas as part of th


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