The shakeup of the troubled Chesapeake Energy board Thursday included the departure of two major politicos.
Don Nickles, former Republican senator from Oklahoma, left after seven years as a director of the Oklahoma-based company.
Frank Keating, former Republican governor of Oklahoma, also stepped down, after nine years on the board.
Chesapeake announced that it had named former ConocoPhillips Chairman Archie Dunham as its new chairman.
At the insistence of two largest shareholders, the company also appointed four other new directors: Bob Alexander, R. Brad Martin, Frederic Poses and Vincent Intrieri.
Company founder Aubrey K. McClendon was forced to give up the chairmanship after revelations about potential conflicts of interest in his personal investments. He continues as president, CEO and a member of the board.
Dunham has no previous involvement with the company. The changes clearly were intended to increase board independence.
“We believe Chesapeake is now heading in the right direction,” said Carl Icahn, the company’s second largest stockholder. “With the Board providing strong oversight, the management team will be sharply focused on realizing the value of its assets and the company will be well positioned to create substantial value for shareholders going forward.”
While Nickles and Keating brought important government connections to the boardroom, they also brought an entanglement of shared political connections with the former chairman.
McClendon, a billionaire, is a big contributor to the Republican Party - at local, state and national levels. He and Keating were both bundlers for John McCain in 2008. (This apparently is not problematic for the company, as one of the new directors, former Saks Chairman R. Brad Martin, was also a McCain fundraiser.)
When Keating’s wife, Catherine Heller Keating, ran for Congress in 2002, McClendon contributed to her campaign.
McClendon was also a major donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the outside group that worked against John Kerry in 2004.
Over the last decade, he has given $50,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Nickles chaired during his time in the Senate.
The Chesapeake Energy PAC also contributes to national campaigns - primarily to Republicans. Data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics show that of the $280,000 spent this cycle on federal candidates, 83 percent went to the GOP.