Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Pernicious Precedent of Obama’s Shakedown of the former British Petroleum

BP must and undoubtedly will be held liable for the accidental oil spill in the Gulf. But the process should be confined to the long-established route through the judicial branch, not a new one through the executive. Obama has pressured BP into giving him $20 billion for an oil spill compensation fund. His hand-picked administrator will presumably dole out money as his boss Obama sees fit; based on Obama’s history (e.g., the Chrysler Confiscation), Democrat constituencies will primarily benefit. That seems to be the whole point. Obama has control over whether and to what extent the federal government will bring criminal charges against BP officials, a strong motive for BP to cave in to this extraordinary extra-legal demand.

Can there possibly be precedent for this, for a private company, under political pressure from a President, to give that President a humongous discretionary fund for him to dispense? No courts of law, no public processes. How possibly can this be good for the American system of law and Constitutionalism?

A Wall Street Journal Editorial (link) stated “BP's agreement sets a terrible precedent for the economy and the rule of law, particularly for future industrial accidents or other corporate controversies that capture national outrage. The default position from now on in such cases will be for politicians to demand a similar ‘trust fund’ that politicians or their designees will control…. BP deserves to pay full restitution for the damage it has caused, but it ought to do so via legal means, not under what Texas Republican Joe Barton rightly called the pressure of ‘a shakedown’….”

Why are those liberal voices so concerned during the Bush years with executive power and rule of law so silent now about this? Could it be they are concerned with such niceties only when their side isn’t in charge, now choosing power over principle?

John M Greco