Mojo - June 2010

Barton Plans Gulf Fishing Fundraiser

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 4:00 PM EDT

In the wake of Rep. Joe Barton's public apology to BP (since walked back), the Sunlight Foundation notes that the Texas Republican is gearing up for his 7th Annual Barton Family Fishing Trip & Florida Flats Fishing Tournament in the Flordia Keys in October. Don't be fooled by the name—the event is a $5,000-a-head fundraiser for Barton's political action committee. The oil spill may or may not ruin the party—it hasn't hit the Keys yet, though the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current appears to be carrying it that way. But the BP disaster is already having an impact on the islands' economy—impacts that the $20 billion BP fund Barton decried as a "slush fund" are supposed to help offset.

For some perspective from the Keys, MoJo's Josh Harkinson called up Brett Greco, a fishing guide who works there for the first half of the year. "It just seems like a matter of time before [the oil] does get here," he said, adding that the hotel and fishing-trip cancellations are adding up. "We're talking about a tough business to begin with in a really weak economy, and then they get the oil on top of that. You're talking about a lot of captains about to lose their livelihood." Asked about Rep. Barton's comments this morning, he said, "It sounds like an oil man just backing another oil man." And what if Barton and his extended "family" show up in October and want to hire his colleagues for a day on the water? "In their heart, they may want to tell this guy to disappear or take a walk," Greco said. "But when it comes down to dollars and cents, if it’s two or three days of fishing, that’s money they can’t say no to, unfortunately."

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Barton Is (Sorta) Sorry for BP Apology

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 3:09 PM EDT

Now Joe Barton is apologizing for his apology to BP, after his fellow Republican leaders distanced themselves from his BP-brown-nosing this morning.

Except he doesn't actually apologize. He merely retracts the statement and notes regret for using the word "shakedown" and the "impact" his statement had—i.e. he's not sorry he said it, just sorry that it was blown up in the news for being as asinine as it actually was. Here's the statement:

I apologize for using the term 'shakedown' with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.
I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident.

Can Bounty Hunters Fix the BP Spill?

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 2:37 PM EDT

Think Florida politics and the BP oil-spill drama couldn't get any weirder? Try again.

In his longshot bid to win the governor's race, a scion of Sunshine State royalty is offering a novel plan to clean up the Deepwater Horizon spill: Force BP to put a cash bounty on crude and pay an "army of private citizens" for personally catching and returning the oil in drips and drabs.

Lawton "Bud" Chiles III, the unaffiliated dark-horse candidate in question, announced his plan in an open message to President Obama:

Chiles today called on President Obama to cut through the red tape and have BP offer a "bounty" on oil, paying citizens by the gallon or pound for the tar and oil they recover on the beaches and in the Gulf.  He said that a cash incentive would give thousands of citizens an opportunity and an incentive to participate in the clean-up efforts and bypass the bureaucracy the government and BP have created...

He said the current response effort amounts to "the federal government watching BP push a rope uphill.  Let’s skip the red tape and the endless delays and mobilize an army of private citizens to do what BP has failed to do for weeks: Clean up this colossal disaster."

How much does Chiles think Floridians should get for their crude booty? Fifty bucks a gallon, according to this report. But it's not all fun and games, people.

Democrats Seize on Barton's BP Apology

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 1:53 PM EDT

Well, that was fast. 

After Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) apologized to BP this morning for Obama's "shake-down" of the company, the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee hasn't wasted any time in going on the offensive. The DCCC has already launched Facebook ads and a petition demanding that the Texas Republican retract his comments. "The DCCC will hold these out-of-touch House Republicans accountable who have no shame when it comes to jumping to the defense of Big Oil,” said DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer. Here's the DCCC's attack line:

GOP Congressman Joe Barton had the nerve to apologize to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the "tragedy" of holding the oil giant accountable for the devastation caused by the Gulf oil disaster. The American people must respond to this shameful display with a strong and unified voice. Add your name to the petition below:

Congressman Barton: The real tragedy is happening in the Gulf of Mexico and the communities along the Gulf Coast. Instead of apologizing to BP, we are calling on you to retract your shameful statement and apologize for standing with Big Oil at the expense of the American people.

Cheney Comes Out of Hiding to Bash Obama on Spill Response

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 1:49 PM EDT

Dick Cheney, who has been MIA for the past two months, finally made his first comments on the Gulf oil disaster yesterday. He emerged from an undisclosed location to bash Obama's handling of the crisis in a speech to the Manufacturer and Business Association convention in Erie, Pa. Via Think Progress, here's the crucial part of the local television affiliate's report on his speech:

Mr. Cheney also touched on what he called the President’s lack of action in the Gulf oil leak. He said Obama doesn’t have enough experience to make things happen.

We might have more information about what Cheney said if he hadn't kicked reporters out of the speech after just a few minutes. The Erie Times-News reports that the contract for Cheney's speech "required the media to leave five minutes into his estimated one-hour talk, which included a question-and-answer session. "

Secret meetings? Wow, some things never change, do they?

Here's the less-than-detailed news report:

"I Cannot Recall"

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 12:51 PM EDT

Joe Barton (R-Tex.) clearly stole the show at today's House hearing by apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward. But Hayward made a stunning appearance himself. And by stunning, I mean he was unable or unwilling to answer basically every question House members posed to him. Some favorite responses:

"I don't know."

"I cannot recall."

"I am not prepared to draw conclusions about this accident."

When Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked Hayward why he couldn't weigh in on the questions Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) sent the CEO earlier this week about evidence that BP's corner-cutting may have caused the disaster, Hayward finally admitted that they had raised "legitimate areas of concern." But he would not respond to the questions. "I am not prepared to draw conclusions about this accident until such time that the investigation is concluded," said Hayward.

He did state, however, that he believes the company's attention to safety is improving under his watch. "We have focused like a laser on safety," he said.

The grilling is on hold for now while House members vote, but look forward to more non-responses when the grilling continues this afternoon.

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Rep. Barton To Star in Democratic Ads?

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 10:51 AM EDT

Those Republicans sure are doing all they can to help the Democrats in a tough congressional election year. As Kate notes, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) this morning essentially apologized to BP and called the new $20 billion escrow account pushed by the Obama administration a "shakedown." In doing so, Barton, who would become chairman of the House energy committee should the Republicans take back the House, has made a political commerical for every House Democrat facing a difficult reelection. It could go something like this:

See this guy? [Photo of Barton; optional: ominous music]. He's a congressman who apologized to BP. Really. Why? Because he said forcing the polluter to set up a $20 billion compensation fund was nothing but a big-government "shakedown." Is this a big deal? It sure could be. Vote for [fill in the name of the Republican candidate] and this BP backer could take over the congressional committee that oversees BP. Then maybe he'll ask taxpayers, not BP, to pay for BP's mess. I'm [fill in the name of Democrat incumbent] and I approve of this message—and of forcing BP, not you, to pay.

Okay, tweak it a little. But I'm sure there are editing rooms already at work on something like this. If not, the Dems deserve to lose.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is counting on fear of Sarah Palin to motivate its grassroots funders. From its latest fundraising email, signed by commentator/consultant Paul Begala:

Between Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin, I'm tearing out what's left of my hair. And I don't have much to spare. At this rate, I'm going to make James Carville look like Mitt Romney. (Say what you want about Mitt; his hair is beautiful.)

Angle wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, and eliminate the federal Departments of Education and Energy. Paul thinks businesses should have the right to discriminate. And Sarah Palin? Well, she's out there raisin' money for 'em, just a-droppin' her g's and pushin' 'em further 'n' further off that right-wing cliff like they were lemmings instead of mama grizzlies - or whatever her latest mammalian metaphor is.

Now, here's the scary part. Candidates like Angle and Paul might actually win. Anti-government extremists and corporate special interests are teaming up to generate enthusiasm and big bucks for candidates who would have been on the fringe during the time of "mainstream" Republicans like Ronald Reagan.

Will Palin-mongering help the Ds? It might impress grassroots funders more than voters (which, at this moment, is the point). But the GOPers, with or without Sister Sarah, are handing the Democrats a lot of ammo—and they certainly need it this year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ought to send Barton flowers.

UPDATE: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has put out a statement slamming Barton's apology:

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.”

The White House doesn't always respond in such an official fashion to dumb GOP remarks. This one is getting special attention.

 

Joe Barton Apologizes to BP (No, Really)

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 10:13 AM EDT

At this morning's hearing with BP CEO Tony Hayward, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) went so far as to apologize to the oil company for what he called a "shake down" on the part of the Obama administration to get the company to establish a $20 billion fund to compensate affected Gulf coast residents.

"I am ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday, that a private corporation would be subject to what I would characterize as a shake down," said Barton. The fund, he said, "amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that is unprecedented in our nation's history" and "sets a terrible precedent for the future."

"I apologize…I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong it is subject to political pressure that amounts to a shake down," Barton continued.

No wonder Barton is one of BP's favorite lawmakers.

Keep in mind, this guy was in charge of the Energy and Commerce Committee before the Democrats won the House majority in 2006. And should Republicans retake that majority, he'll likely be the chairman again. Here's the video:

UPDATE: Now Barton says he's sorry. Sort of.

Watchdog Groups Begrudgingly Back DISCLOSE Act

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 10:07 AM EDT

The carve-out that the National Rifle Association managed to secure in the House’s campaign finance reform bill has left many liberals gnashing their teeth. A slew of liberal groups have threatened to pull their support for the DISCLOSE Act—meant to curb the excesses of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision—if the NRA’s exemption stays in. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has even suggested the NRA deal may be unconstitutional in a statement released Wednesday.

But not all Democratic allies have followed suit. Labor unions are currently lobbying to push through their own deal in exchange for supporting the bill, which would require independent groups to out the donors that back campaign ads. Five watchdog groups—Common Cause, Public Citizen, the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters, and Democracy 21—have urged lawmakers to vote for the bill, though some have made no secret of their distaste for the NRA deal. "We're uncomfortable with giving anyone any exemption. It continues to be a hard decision," Craig Holman of Public Citizen told McClatchy.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) announced its own support for the bill after mistakenly being included as a signatory on a letter to Nancy Pelosi signed by a host of liberal groups that opposed it. The group's followed up with its own letter to Pelosi, noting the error and hailing the importance of political compromise: "We are not interested in seeing the perfect be the enemy of the good and are well aware that the NRA’s opposition to the bill might be sufficient to doom its chance of passage."

Given the nearly unanimous opposition from the right on the bill, the Democrats will need all the friends they can get if the bill stands a chance. And it will be interesting to see if President Obama himself ends up making a strong case for the legislation. Only a few weeks ago, Obama was publicly railing against Citizens United and arguing for the need for campaign finance reform. But that was before BP's big oily mess had engulfed his presidency.

New Ads Target Graham's Climate Flip-Flop

| Thu Jun. 17, 2010 8:21 AM EDT

The American Values Network, a faith-based progressive group, is running tough new ads going after Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his collasal flip-flop on climate change last week. The ads, which are running in the DC metro area, also note that he is now "backing what he himself called a "half-assed energy bill."