Chamber of Commerce CEO says he pushed US accession to Law of the Sea Treaty

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In a short interview with The Hill after the hearing, Donohue confirmed the conversation but downplayed his role somewhat.

“I have talked to a lot of people about it," he said. "And as the senator said, we were together one evening and he did all of his business and I said, 'not until I do some of my business. And I raised that issue and he got very interested in it. But by the way, there are a lot of other people who have been interested in it for a long time.”

Donohue was one of four business leaders who testified in favor of the treaty on Thursday. He specifically rejected criticism that joining the treaty would harm U.S. sovereignty.

“This treaty promotes our sovereignty, by codifying our property rights in the Arctic and on our extended continental shelf,” he said. “It will be ours, people will know it's ours, and we'll have every right to defend it.”

As for the royalties that U.S. oil-and-gas companies would have to pay for redistribution by a U.N. body, he said, “my response to that is simple: The U.S. Treasury will lose hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in royalty revenue by not providing companies the legal certainty and stability to develop the extended continental shelf.”

Donohue testified along with leaders from the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and Verizon. Their testimony might have had a greater impact on undecided Republicans than previous appearances by U.S. military leaders, who have to answer to the civilian leadership.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) appeared to acknowledge as much when he questioned Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.

“It's a bit of an out-of-body experience to hear you testify about the administration doing something to help the oil industry,” Corker said. 

“The irony wasn't lost of me either when I was invited to testify,” said Gerard, who has clashed repeatedly with the Obama administration on off-shore drilling, the Keystone pipeline and other issues.

“I'm very neutral on this,” Corker concluded. “I'm here to learn.”