Politics

In Case You Missed It: There Was a $20 Billion Shakedown in Washington

| by Heritage Foundation

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is under fire from the White House and the Beltway media for his statement to BP today: “I’m only speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize. I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.”

Barton should have been apologizing to the American people, not BP, but other than that he is 100% correct. What happened in the White House yesterday was a “shakedown” of Godfather-like proportions. Lets review: 

1) BP agreed to pay $20 billion over four years to an “independent” party; 2) BP immediately identified $20 billion in U.S. assets that could be liquidated should BP not be able to pay on time; 3) BP received no assurances that the ultimate economic damages would not be higher; 4) BP is still liable for all individual and state claims in court; 5) The fund is completely separate from any environmental damages, which the Obama administration says could top $30 billion; 6) BP paid another $100 million for workers made unemployed by President Obama’s indefinite ban on offshore oil drilling; 7) BP received no assurance that the White House would not ask for more money if the ban becomes permanent.

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All of this was “negotiated” while Attorney General Eric Holder, who has already threatened BP with criminal prosecution, stood in the corner. And what did BP get in return? A single statement from the President saying he did not want to drive BP into bankruptcy. Of course he doesn’t. The mob can’t collect from a bankrupt business. Clinton administration Deputy Attorney General turned BP lawyer Jamie Gorelick let slip what the game is really all about: “We know what it looks like when a company is driven into bankruptcy. The claims that come first are the creditors, then the employees, then the environmental claims, and then the likes of shrimpers. This would not be a good result for anyone.” Well, not anyone who expects the law to be followed.

Yesterday’s White House victim was not BP. It was the rule of law. Just as the Obama administration junked the bankruptcy code last year to protect their union allies, they are doing the exact same thing this time for their environmental ones.