Conservatives to Obama: Leave BP alone!

Joe Barton says it is “a tragedy of the first proportion” that BP agreed to Obama’s request to set up a $20 billion fund to compensate Americans — and then he apologizes to BP CEO Hayward!

UPDATE:  The Daily News notes, “Before his election to Congress, Barton was an executive with ARCO, which was later acquired by BP.”  More updates below, including the threat by GOP leadership that made Barton retract the apology.

At first it was only fringe libertarians who defended BP (see Rand Paul calls White House pressure on BP “un-American”).  But the dam broke yesterday when the mainstream conservatives of the Republican Study Committee labeled the $20 billion BP escrow account for victims of the tragedy a “Chicago-style political shakedown.”

Today, in a must-see video from the House hearing, JoeGlobal Warming ‘Is A Net Benefit To Mankind’ Barton (R-TX) called the fund a “tragedy” and then apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward:

BARTON: I’m speaking totally for myself, I’m not speaking for the Republican Party, I’m not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself. But I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown “” with the Attorney General of the United States who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people “” participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that is unprecedented in our nation’s history, that’s got no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for the future.

If I called you into my office, and I had the subcommittee chairman Mr. Stupak with me, who was legitimately conducting an oversight investigation on your company, and said if you put so many millions of dollars in a project in my congressional district, I could go to jail and should go to jail. Now, there is no question that British Petroleum owns this lease, that BP made decisions that objective people think compromise safety. There is no question that BP is liable for the damages. But we have a due process system where we go through hearings, in some cases court cases, litigation and determine what those damages are and when those damages should be paid.

So I’m only speaking for myself, I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize, I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is again in my words amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize.

So Barton thinks litigation is the best way for determining “when those damages should be paid.”  CP has already examined at length what happens when we go that path:

The Exxon Valdez spill was in 1989, they still, 21 years later, have not paid the [full] amount awarded in court (a mere $500 million) to those affected and in fact over 8000 people have died while waiting for compensation. Exxon is still in appeals court TODAY. Why would BP act differently?

The White House press office released this statement in response:

“What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction.  Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now.  Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.”

Brad Johnson at TP notes:

The “slush fund” will not be managed by the federal government or BP, but an independent third party, funded over four years with a small fraction of BP’s annual revenues. Barton has taken $1.4 million from the oil and gas industry, including $27,350 from BP. In Barton’s world, it seems that the small people have to pay for their mistakes, but companies don’t.

Who else thinks the escrow account is a bad idea?

  • Bachmann Fears Obama Using BP Escrow Fund as a ‘Permanent ATM Card.’ The Hill: “Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on Wednesday warned the Obama administration against using oil giant BP as a ‘permanent ATM card’ and more broadly alleged there are increasing federal efforts to ‘take over private industry.’ The comments by Bachmann – a popular figure among conservative Tea Party activists – followed BP’s agreement under White House pressure to place $20 billion into a new escrow fund for damage claims from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.”
  • Dirty energy lobbyist-turned-Governor Barbour is concerned that escrow account will cut into BP’s profits: “It bothers me”

TP now reports that at least one senior Republican is distancing himself from Barton:  Boehner refuses to endorse Barton’s claim that BP’s escrow fund is a ‘shakedown.’ But TP adds:

Asked by CNN if he agreed with Barton, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) spoke favorably of the escrow fund, but said “the appearance of having the attorney general across the table, I’ll admit, that is troublesome.” “I don’t know if I would be quite as strong as Mr. Barton, but I agree with him that it was unseemly to have the attorney general, perhaps holding criminal papers in his hand, asking them to sign on the line,” said Burgess.


UPDATE:  Politico reports some (political) sanity remains in the party:

Republicans, particularly Gulf state lawmakers, are furious at Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and may ask him to cede his job as top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the wake of his apology to BP Thursday.

“People are calling for his head,” said a GOP member of the committee.

UPDATE:  Politico reports, “Joe Barton retracts apology to BP.”

UPDATE:  CNN Steve Brusk tweets senior GOP was in panic mode:

Producer Deirdre Walsh reports Barton was told at mtg with Boehner and Cantor “apologize immediately” or lose position immediately

28 Responses to Conservatives to Obama: Leave BP alone!

  1. Jim Groom says:

    Someday these idiots will actually surprise me and keep their ill informed mouths shut. They have been holding up progress to remove the cap on damages, doing their corporate masters bidding, and Obama pulls an end run on them and neuters them. Great theater and good politics.
    I certainly hope the American people are paying attention to this. Putting big oill and big business before the American people will not endear them to the folks effected. I imagine that the workers effected and the small business owners in the Gulf are thanking the president today.

  2. Peter Mizla says:

    Barton is truly amazing- I guess the people of Texas like this type of denizen.

    I do hope the people of the USA- listen and begin to analogize what the GOP has become-

  3. fj2 says:

    These dimwits play like hackneyed villains typical of the most trite boring plots in stories and movies.

  4. PSU Grad says:

    Aren’t these the guys who wail against the trial lawyers and the litigiousness of our society? Really? And now those same guys want the injured parties to go through litigation?

    Whose side are you guys on? No, wait, don’t answer that, I think I know.

    If the Democratic party can’t stick these statements in the faces of Americans this fall, then the party is truly hopeless.

  5. Philip says:

    Hayward looked uncomfortable. There’s a difference between a kiss and a kiss of death.

  6. David Smith says:

    So I guess this is the going price for a US Representative in the state of Texas today is $1,400,000. Does that mean that for $2,000,000 we could get him to forget about big energy?

  7. Buford Smith says:

    Looks like BP experienced a Chicago Mafia court. Yes this is a shakedown. Revenge. Oilbama did the same with Citi Bank when he was a community organizer for ACORN.

    [JR: Glad to know a few of you are out there reading CP!]

  8. Rick Covert says:

    I have lived in Texas for 31 years and 29 of those in Houston. BP and Halliburton are within 5 miles of my home. This has given me a unique ability to translate Texan into English. What congressman Joe Barton meant to say when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the “White House Shakedown” is we’re sorry we couldn’t saddle the American taxpayer with the cost of the clean up and the destruction of livelihoods and the deaths of those 11 Deepwater Horizon workers so you could continue to receive your justly earned multi-million dollar salary with perks and golden parachute.

  9. Raleigh Latham says:

    Barton is a disgusting human being, and so is his party. BP deserves EVERYTHING that’s coming to it for destroying a precious Marine Ecosystem. They committed murder, fraud, negligence, and wholesale environmental destruction.

  10. Chris Dudley says:

    The AG is responsible for both civil and criminal affairs. The escrow is clearly on the civil side and it is a pretty normal occurrence to have partial settlement and stipulations before any court proceeding happen. It saves on attorneys’ fees. Barton is not a lawyer but he is certainly urging unethical behavior by insisting on the expense and delay of trial on issues that can be settled out of court.

  11. Bill Waterhouse says:

    So Barton is willing to let all the small businesses dependent on the (former) natural bounty of the Gulf ecosystem just go bankrupt while waiting for litigation to wend its way through the courts? Stupid on so many levels. As a former litigator I know the best possible outcome is an early fair settlement of claims, not hard-fought litigation where the litigation costs suck up most of the money. Barton’s supporters are the dumbest of the dumb.

  12. Craig says:

    Another conservative reveals his allegiance to corporate interests over citizens. Another Republican congressmen clearly demonstrates his belief that gains should always be privatized but costs made public. Blah, blah, blah. This is pretty standard for modern conservatives. And it shouldn’t surprise or shock anyone who has been paying attention.

    What I am more upset about is the weakness and timidity being displayed by the Obama administration. The oil spill could be the transforming event that propels the nation away from fossil fuels. But Obama, predictably, has decided to take the safe route. He will never have a better opportunity to finally put a price on carbon. And since he is not seizing that opportunity, it leads me to conclude that all his speeches since being sworn in as President, stretching back to his inauguration when he said we will “roll back the specter of a warming plant” were just pretty words, signifying nothing.

  13. Michael Tucker says:

    This is a DIRECT INSULT to ALL who are suffering from this disaster. So the victims are shaking down BP? Barton is completely devoid of any human decency! He does have compassion and concern for oil companies though.

  14. catman306 says:

    Maybe it’s a tragedy that the citizens of Texas elected a man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘tragedy’. Or elected a corporatist liar that supports, who else, but a multinational corporation over the interests of his constituents. Yeah, here’s the tragedy: Representative Joe Barton.

  15. Jay Turner says:

    I used to hold the GOP in high esteem, but over the last decade, they’ve repeatedly shown that they are out of touch with reality and so wedded to destructive and exploitative corporate interests that they can’t be trusted. If the conservatives ever want to win back mainstream America, they need to do some deep soul-searching about the values they hold and who they ally themselves with.

  16. JasonW says:

    MAJOR backpedalling by Barton there!! Looks like he received some angry phone calls from some party collegues in the Gulf…

  17. Not A Lawyer says:

    Barton just issued an apology for his apology.

  18. PSU Grad says:

    Joe Barton, the new face of the GO(B)P.

  19. sod says:

    BP prefers turtles to be roasted. i guess they don t like all those pictures of them, struggling through oil…

  20. MapleLeaf says:

    No surprise. Barton, is the same man who went after Dr. Michael Mann.

  21. Anne says:

    re: “People are calling for his head,” said a GOP member of the committee.

    Well — let’s see — I’ve heard human hair is an excellent material for absorbing oil!

    Hmmm, if we just had enough heads…..

  22. Yeggo says:

    The most amazing part to me was that Barton seemingly had NO IDEA that in this day and age, anything you say can and will be used against not only you, but your ENTIRE political party. Yes, the GOP made him apologize or lose his committee chairmanship (talk about a shakedown!) but by now the horse is miles away, and the barn door still isn’t fully shut.

    I get that there’s a subset of the GOP that twitches whenever corporations are demonized by government. But considering the latest polls put BP’s approval in the low TEENS, I can’t imagine how Barton would have thought this would be ignored.

    That being said, if anyone can defend the political numbskullery, I’m all ears.

  23. fj2 says:

    Can we expect that the “Joe Barton retraction thingy” is a kind of prelude to the type of lightweight opposition reactions once the president decides to get serious about addressing climate change and the rapidly accelerating environmental devastation?

  24. The amount of CO2 that is emitted globally each day is equivalent to almost 8,000 Gulf oil spills each day!

    Details: And You Think the Oil Spill is Bad?

  25. PurpleOzone says:

    The right wing decided to attack Obama for the $20 billion. (Attack the strengths). Barton was echoing the echo chamber, but, alas for the wingnuts, this issue doesn’t have political traction. In fact, Barton’s apology produced an instant angry response; the Repubs on the committee realized this for an instant disaster.

    Boehner and Cantor called in Barton immediately, told him to apologize immediately for the apology, or his seniority was gone immediately and released their action through an aide immediately. So you can take it that the Republicans were horrified. They are also sending a message to the wingnuts to shut up. You can’t attack Obama when he does something as useful as securing money that can be disbursed by Feinburg, rather than BP.

    Feinburg will still have a big challenge in getting the money out fast to the small businesses and employees. So expect some criticism to continue; but he is trusted, unlike BP.

    The Republican party has a real problem with the wingnuts. They believe they speak for the Repubs, even can tell them what to do. Some wingnuts were pushing the fund as “redistribution of wealth”. I think I caught an representative, Bachmann, yelling about the poor BP getting taken unfairly for the fund.

    Presumably the wingnuts will forget this and go off on another wild track. Oh, well.

    I thought the whole fiasco funny. Wonder if this stupidity will take down Barton. Probably not, sigh.

  26. prokaryote says:


    Video: GOP oil industry loyalties exposed

  27. Nick says:

    This could be career-ending if there’s any justice. Barton has cut his own throat for the next campaign.

  28. Marc says:

    “I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is again in my words amounts to a shakedown.” Mr. Barton, I presume, will be packing his bags soon.