Tactics Watch: Auction Bid

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

Tactics Watch:  Auction Bid
December 21, 2008
                Antigua                I am always on the watch for breakthrough tactics, so I marveled at the effectiveness, and courage, of a young man’s virtually singlehanded blocking of the last of the Bush land-lease giveaways.  Tim DeChristopher, an econ student at the University of Utah managed to win more than a dozen parcels out right and bid up the prices on others, though he had no intention — or money — to pay. 
                Using this tactic he hoped to keep prevent some great pieces of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management from being offered at auction.  There may be a price to pay, but this was one man’s way of putting a roadblock on a permanent giveaway of the public’s patrimony.
                Here’s to Tim who made a good idea work.  How about a pardon, President Obama?

Utah Activist Disrupts Sale of Leases for Drilling


Published: December 20, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An environmental activist disrupted an auction of oil and gas drilling leases Friday by bidding up parcels of land by hundreds of thousands of dollars with no intention of paying for them, a federal official said.
The process was thrown into chaos and the bidding halted for a time before the auction was closed, with 116 parcels totaling 148,598 acres having sold for $7.2 million plus fees.
“He’s tainted the entire auction,” said Kent Hoffman, deputy state director for the federal Bureau of Land Management in Utah.
Mr. Hoffman said buyers had 10 days to reconsider and withdraw their bids if they thought they had paid too much.
The activist, Tim DeChristopher, 27, a University of Utah economics student, said he had accomplished his goal of disrupting the auction. Mr. DeChristopher won the bidding on 13 parcels, auction records show, and drove up the price of several others.
“We were hosed,” said Jason Blake of Park City, a consulting geologist who was outbid on a 320-acre parcel. “It’s very frustrating. I hope the guy is prosecuted.”
Several bidders said they had not decided whether to withdraw their bids. Some said they might reluctantly hold on to their leases despite the cost out of concern that the parcels might not be offered again under President-elect Barack Obama’s administration.
Criminal investigators for the Bureau of Land Management questioned Mr. DeChristopher, who said he expected to be charged. He was released, and the case was referred to federal prosecutors for possible fraud charges, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office said.
“I’m willing to deal with that,” Mr. DeChristopher said.
The sale of the leases has drawn criticism from environmental groups and Robert Redford, the actor, director and environmental activist.
Activists said the sale would threaten Utah’s wild lands and spoil the view from some of the state’s spectacular national parks with drilling rigs.
The bureau had already pulled some parcels from the sale in response to complaints from the National Park Service and others. Ultimately, the agency dropped more than half of the 359,000 acres first proposed for auction.

Tim DeCristopher talks with reporters after he was escorted out of the BLM offices in Salt Lake City on Friday. (Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune)