The list of corporate sponsors of expense-paid judicial education seminars hosted by George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center in years past includes the names of such blue-chip companies as AT&T Inc., the Coca-Cola Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Pfizer, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
But one name sticks out for its relative obscurity: Petromina LLC. While it turns out the company is little-known, its top manager is anything but.
Documents show that Petromina LLC is headed by Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the former president of Bolivia, who fled to the United States nearly a decade ago amid major protests and accusations of human rights violations in his own country.
For years, Bolivia’s current government has unsuccessfully sought to extradite Sánchez de Lozada, also known by the nickname “Goni.”
Why a company headed by the former president of Bolivia would be interested in sponsoring expense-paid conferences for federal judges is unclear. Sánchez de Lozada, through attorney Ana Reyes of the Washington, D.C., firm Williams & Connolly, declined a request for an interview.
Sara Magner, the company's general counsel, told the Center for Public Integrity only that Petromina LLC decided to donate to the George Mason University think tank "as part of its charitable giving" after being "approached by an employee of George Mason to make the contributions."
Petromina LLC, which Magner described as a "family advisory firm," is headquartered in a non-descript office building barely five blocks from the White House. Sánchez de Lozada is listed as “manager” and the “sole member” of the company, which was established in Delaware in 2005, according to records.
The company’s purpose is to provide “management and administrative services” and to offer “stewardship services to other foreign affiliates,” according to paperwork filed with the D.C. city government.