Monday, June 07, 2010

Maybe Louisiana Voters Think That When Their Senators Get Bribes It Somehow Accrues To The Whole State


Good restaurants now mention where their seafood is from; others buy the stuff from Louisiana

I follow David Vitter's smug idiocy on twitter so you don't have to. Mostly he tweets about what a strong family-oriented guy he is-- his poor son Jack has become a twitter campaign prop regarding countless sporting events and outings ever since Vitter got trashed for a series of illicit affairs with prostitutes in Louisiana and Washington-- about the benefits of obstructionism, about Louisiana sports teams, about how beloved he is of right wing propaganda hypocrites like Limbaugh, Hannity, Glenn Beck and O'Reilly, and lately, in at least three-quarters of his tweets, the BP oil spill. Except that he isn't a lady, one can't help but conjure up the third act of Hamlet:
The lady doth protest too much, methinks

And, as Think Progress pointed out so definitively last week, Vitter doth. Forget for a moment that in the Senate's current electoral cycle only fellow Big Oil shill Blanche Lincoln has outpaced Vitter in the oily bribes department (Vitter taking in $242,600, Lincoln $286,400) or that since 1990 Vitter is one of Big Oil's half dozen most heavily paid-off senators (at $783,835, beaten out only by notoriously corrupt bribe-takers John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn, Jim Inhofe, and Miss McConnell). Instead, let's look at an example of what Big Oil has gotten for its investment in the political career of Senator David Vitter. On the two dozen votes the Senate has taken since 2005 that are rated by ProgressivePunch to determined where each senator stands on Air Pollution Vitter has been America's worst with a flat ZERO. Is it any wonder polluters just keep pumping money into his campaigns? His overall environmental score is a dismal 1.32 (out of 100) but it's noteworthy to remember that he's at a zero on Oceanic Conservation and a zero at Water Conservation and a zero when it comes to using taxpayer dollars to subsidize the oil & gas industry.

Let's go back, for example, to March 13, 2008, when the Senate was voting on a series of amendments to the Energy Bill. Vitter was part of a minority that acceded to the Big Oil's demand that they approve more offshore drilling in an amendment offered by Tennessee corporate shill Lamar Alexander. In his entire time as a legislator-- when he followed David Duke as the Representative of Lousiana's 81st district (Metairie and Bucktown)-- David Vitter has never-- not once-- stood up to Big Oil. He has voted for every single demand they have ever made regardless of how adversely it has impacted his own constituents. And that goes right along with Think Progress' report last week that Vitter had attempted to weaken the already way too weak laws governing corporations that pollute the water and destroy endanger species.
In July 2000, when Vitter was in the House, he introduced a bill that would make penalties under the OPA “the exclusive criminal penalties” for oil spills:
(a) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision or rule of law, sections 4301(c) and 4302 of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-380; 104 Stat. 537) and the amendments made by those sections provide the exclusive criminal penalties for any action or activity that may arise or occur in connection with a discharge of oil or a hazardous substance referred to in section 311(b)(3) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1321(b)(3)).

Fortunately, the bill-- which attracted only two cosponsors-- never made it out of committee. If it had become law, BP and the other companies would be exempted from more stringent criminal penalties under the other environmental laws. It would also potentially exempt BP from any workplace safety violations on the rig or during the cleanup.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which governs offshore oil and gas exploration, provides for much stricter punishments than the OPA, such as ten years imprisonment to “[a]ny person who knowingly and willfully (1) violates any provision of this Act.” Meanwhile, criminal negligence under the Clean Water Act is punishable by fines of up to “$50,000 per day, 3 years’ imprisonment, or both.” And under the Endangered Species Act, BP could be fined $13,000 for each endangered animal killed, while “Significant Habitat Modification or Degradation” can carry much stronger penalties including one year imprisonment. These punishments would be on top of the cleanup costs assessed under the OPA. The OPA deals mainly with cleanup costs-- not punitive damages-- and only allows for imprisonment if a company fails to notify authorities about a spill. It also caps a company’s liability at $75 million.

More recently, Vitter has introduced a bill to raise the OPA’s $75 million cap. But while other senators have proposed caps of $10 billion, Vitter’s bill would limit a company’s liability to the amount of its profit in the last four quarters, or $150 million, whichever is greater. This is allegedly to protect small companies with small profits, but if a big company like BP happened have a bad year and made little or no profit, they would be responsible for only the $150 million.

As the Daily Kingfish pointed out, this is exactly the case with Andarko, the oil company which owns 25 percent of the lease in the Deepwater Horizon well:
BP doesn’t own the entirety of the lease, it only owns 65% of it. Another company, Anadarko, owns 25% of the lease. In the last 4 quarters, Anadarko has lost $135 million, so they would face no more than $150 million in liability, despite the fact that they hold an estimated $50 billion in assets.

BP has already spent nearly a billion dollars on spill cleanup, and could end up spending as much as $37 billion, so a $150 million cap is paltry.

Andarko’s PAC makes few contributions, but has been a consistent supporter of Vitter. The company gave him $10,000 in 2004-- by far the largest of only four contributions made that year-- and gave him another $4,000 this year. Their only other contribution this year was $500 to a state senate candidate in Texas.

All together, oil and gas companies have given Vitter nearly $400,000 since 2005, and their investment appears to have been a smart one.

But David Vitter isn't a senator from California or Michigan or Washington or Florida. He represents Louisiana where he could run on this kind of behavior and he assured of reelection. And he will be reelected next November, much to the delight of the Oil Industry and the other corporations that fund him. If there are 10 more oil spills and if the damages to Louisiana go all the way past Thibodaux and Lake Charles and past Alexandria and even engulf Monroe and Shreveport, David Vitter will still be hiring prostitutes to spank him and change his diapers between Senate votes in Washington next year.

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At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Ah, but Howie, there is this to be said for Vitter (or Don Young, for that matter, Ohio's BP shill): when he's bought, he stays bought.

As for Obama: does anyone have a spine graft for the poor man? I didn't vote for him (or McCain), but I certainly didn't think he'd do as badly as he has in office. I just expected a ConservaDem corporatist, not a person who could be rolled from the right on every conceivable occasion.


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