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POGO Board Member, Champion for Underdogs, Whistleblowers Passes Away

Charles “Chuck” Hamel, our beloved POGO Board member since 1994, passed away April 9. He was 84.

Photo of Charles
Chuck Hamel

Chuck’s incredible career included serving as Administrative Assistant to Connecticut U.S. Senator Thomas J. Dodd and as Executive Assistant to Alaska U.S. Senator Mike Gravel. Years later, as an independent tanker and oil broker on the North Slope of Alaska, Chuck discovered environmental, health, and safety violations by Alyeska Pipeline and its oil-company owners. Acting as a conduit for concerned whistleblowers, including Alyeska employees, Chuck became a source of information for Congress, state and federal regulatory agencies, and the media. Alyeska Pipeline and its owner companies—ARCO, BP, Exxon, Mobil, Unocal, Phillips, and Amerada Hess—engaged the Wackenhut Corporation to mount a massive undercover surveillance operation of Chuck.

Federal Judge Stanley Sporkin, during 1993 U.S. District Court proceedings, described the details of Alyeska's spy operation on Chuck as "horrendous" and "reminiscent of Nazi Germany." Judge Sporkin further observed "no one should be subjected to the kind of treatment the Hamels were."

Chuck “exposed the ugly greed and power plays inside the oil industry and among the governments that bowed to them,” said Rick Steiner, an independent conservation biologist.

At POGO board meetings, Chuck was always passionately championing the underdogs. He seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy. He also had a deep interest in the next generation of whistleblowers. Hardly a meeting went by without Chuck stating: “We’ve got to get the kids involved!” and “What are we doing to reach college students with this message?”

He cared on a personal level, too. Chuck always began a phone call or a meeting by asking how your family was doing, and he always remembered their names. His warmth, his vibrant personality, and his passion for justice will be greatly missed.

If you would like to read more about Chuck and the impact he had, click here for another POGO Blog.

To read more stories on Chuck:

The Anchorage Daily News

Washington Post Obituary

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The Herald of Everett, Washington

Written by Keith Rutter, POGO's Chief Operating Officer.