Monday, June 21, 2010

Show Me the Oil Money


"In the wake of controversial comments made by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) during a recent House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, angry partisan reactions from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill were expectedly fierce. But the senior Texas Republican’s open apology to British Petroleum (BP) Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward also threw a glaring spotlight on the influence of campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in Washington. The ranking Republican member on the House Committee overseeing regulation of the energy industry issued an unusual apologia to Hayward during the embattled CEO’s testimony before irate legislators probing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Barton, before a standing room only crowd of staffers, spectators and journalists, described the Obama Administration’s recent deal with BP to pay $20 billion for an oil spill victim escrow fund as “… a shakedown.”

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House,” Barton said in opening remarks to an otherwise subdued Hayward. “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. 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.”

While reactions to Burton’s apology were immediate, as swift were the reactions of many political observers who noted the Texas Congressman’s ties to big oil. “Ordinarily, it’s not that shocking to see a Republican from Texas defend the petroleum industry,” says Nate Silver, a political polling analyst and founder of “But Rep. Barton’s comments to Tony Hayward obviously touched something of a raw nerve, with Republicans seeking to distance themselves from the comment while Democrats look for ways to exploit it.”' More>>>>

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