Shakedown cruise

Joe Barton was just mouthing the official Republican line.

Now that Joe Barton is quickly backing off his “apology” for BP because our mean ol’ President asked the oil company to pay for the damage it caused, and other Republicans are hastily backing away from Barton, let’s not forget that Barton wasn’t alone. The wingnut-and-Tea-Party-friendly House Republican Conference, which counts a majority of House Republicans as members, had said more or less the same thing (minus the apology) the day before. Here’s the full text of the press release.

Washington, Jun 16 – Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) issued the following statement after the White House announced it had reached a deal with BP to require the oil company to place $20 billion into an escrow fund to pay claims filed against the company in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.

“We all agree that BP should be held fully responsible for its complicity in the oil tragedy in the Gulf,” said Chairman Price. “In fact, BP has already begun paying claims. Any attempt by the company to sidestep that responsibility should be met with the strongest legal recourses available. However, in an administration that appears not to respect fundamental American principles, it is important to note that there is no legal authority for the President to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account.

“BP’s reported willingness to go along with the White House’s new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics. These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration’s drive for greater power and control. It is the same mentality that believes an economic crisis or an environmental disaster is the best opportunity to pursue a failed liberal agenda. The American people know much better.”

So demanding to be sued, rather than doing the right thing before a judge tells you to, is a “fundamental American principle”? And a President who asks a private company to do the right thing is practicing “shakedown politics.” Try again, fellas.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

6 thoughts on “Shakedown cruise”

  1. Too bad these concerns about due process only surface when a multinational corporation might be 'victimized'.

  2. has the republican congressional leadership heard of the principle of mitigation of damages?

  3. Barton must be wondering if some boys are just judged by the way they look. After all, it's true that he was only repeating a conventional conservative line. In some quarters, the dominant image of the whole Obama Administration has long been basically of a Sharpton-like extortionist standing outside some corporate headquarters w/ a bullhorn, demanding some of their money. Sometimes it takes subtle ear to know the difference between normal rhetoric & truly noteworthy contemptible nonsense.

  4. Barton shouldn't be allowed to walk away from his demonstrated instincts – the D's should say "if you vote for any House Republican, the man you'll put in charge of oil companies will reflexively apologize for attempts to hold them accountable. Is that who you want in charge of Congressional regulation?"

    This keeps the Republican caucus responsible Barton until and unless they demote him. If they do, then go after the Repub Study Committee for essentially adopting the same position as the guy they demoted.

    Here's my soundbite: The Republican leadership speaks apologies to power, when power shoots us in the face.

  5. Whether or not Barton manages to hold on his position as Ranking Member of Energy & Commerce, take a look at the roster of Ranking Members of the House and Senate committees & subcommittees. This is the stuff of a hundred Democratic campaign commercials. For a start, the Judiciary Committees: Jeff Sessions, Lamar Smith, Steve King (Immigration), Louie Gohmert (Crime & Homeland Security), Tom Coburn, Sensenbrenner (Constitution, Civil RIghts & Civil Liberties), Trent Franks, Kyl, etc.

  6. my reading of this is that the irregularities associated with the auto bailouts (especially the indiana pension fund getting screwed by chrysler) have made republicans completely unwilling to give the administration the benefit of the doubt on anything that even smells like regime uncertainty. if you're the kind of person who was offended by the breach of standard bankruptcy procedure with chrysler, it's easy to see how the mistrust it engendered could lead to skepticism even of reasonable ad hoc deviations from existing rules (such as replacing a ludicrously low damage cap with a fund to be administered professionally with minimal transaction costs).

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