Huffman joins many Republicans on BP's side

Jonathan Poisner

Jim Huffman appears to be following a script drafted by the most extreme elements of the Republican party.

Yesterday, the blogosphere was lit up by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Energy Committee, when he used an appearance by BP CEO Tony Haywood to apologize to BP for the President’s negotiated agreement with BP to set aside $20 billion of funds in escrow to use in paying claims.

For those who didn’t see it, video can be found here.

Within hours, Barton had apologized for his apology – after facing a furious firestorm of protests for portraying BP as the victim.

What’s received less attention is that Barton wasn’t alone in standing up for BP and against the residents of the Gulf Coast and Oregon’s own Jim Huffman joined in the chorus.

Other notable Republicans who said virtually identical things to Barton just yesterday included:

former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- the settlement fund is "socialism"

Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minnesota) -- the settlement fund is a “redistribution of wealth fund.”

The House Republican Study Group -- settlement fund a “politicization of our economy”

Missisippi Governor Haley Barbour -- BP fund a mistake because BP needs to invest that $20 billion in more oil rigs.

And yes, here in Oregon, the Republican standard-bearer in the US Senate race, Jim Huffman, joined in the cause. Huffman suggested at a Republican rally in Medford that Obama exceeded his Constitutional authority in negotiating the fund.

On its face, Huffman’s Constitutional claim is ridiculous hyperbole.

BP has already admitted liability; it just needs to settle upon an amount, a determination of to whom, and a system for payment. The Department of Justice is going to launch a case against it – it’s just a matter of time.

Of course it’s Constitutional for the federal government in that instance to negotiate with the defendant and set up a system for payments prior to launching the actual case.

Huffman’s statement is also politically tone deaf. The public is clamoring for stronger action against BP. Huffman is hardly going to make inroads against Wyden with such an extreme viewpoint.

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    I can only believe that Republicans like Huffman spend so much time talking to each other that they do not have a clue what the rest of us think. Of course Huffman is a pretty committed libertarian academic who takes positions because of his principles regardless of the practical impact. Can't say the same for Newt and the others in Washington. They just want to say that whatever Obama does is wrong.

    Thankfully the best thing Democrats have going for them now is that they are running against Republicans.

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    Jonatahn, please let us know your Constirutional law background upon which you base your statement, "Of course it’s Constitutional for the federal government in that instance to negotiate with the defendant..."

    Policitacl idealogy aside, I'f take the word of a law professor over that of a blogger. That in no way defends the other outrageous statements by Newt and others. However, you could well be wrong regarding Huffman's statement.

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      Actually Kurt, I taught law school two semesters at Lewis & Clark. Professor Huffman's views on the Constitution are way outside the mainstream of legal thought in this country and clearly contrary to many decades of Supreme Court precedent.

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    Kurt, on what basis do you claim that it's unconstitutional for the federal government to negotiate with a potential defendant?

    Do you really believe that? If it's constitutional to bring action against BP, isn't it also constitutional to negotiate with them?

    Or are you just purposely being making an idiotic argument to waste precious brain cells?

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      Michel I wasn't the one who said it was unconstitutional. The post stated that Huffman had a question with it. Since he is a law professor I asked why the post took issue.

      Of course you probably didn't pick up the subtlety of the question from your desire to question loss of brain cells.

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        Kurt, the problem is that you were taking the word of a law professor, rather than thinking for yourself.

        Law professors can say stupid things, and it this case, it just seems obvious that Huffman has done so in this case.

        I will give you that you weren't the one claiming that it's unconstitutional, but you seemed to be rather aggressive in promoting Huffman's view.

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          Exactly! The notion that it's unconstitutional for the president to negotiate with a potential defendant is ludicrous. Otherwise, the fact that any number of foreign governments can be, and some in fact have been, defendants in American courts would preclude the president exercizing the explicit Constitutional authority to deal with foreign governments.

  • (Show?) we always used to say back in texas...these sure are a buncha bought dogs...big oily ones!!!

    ...not too sure what the constitution says about it...

    ...smells like...republicans...

    ...btw...haven't heard a lot about ''shock and awe'' lately...or ''drill baby, drill''...

    ...kinda funny to hear these bought dogs apologizin to bp...

    ...kinda gutless, but what can you expect from bought dogs... figgers...dontcha know!!!


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    The GO(B)P: privatize the profites, socialize the risk!

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    Did you see the WSJ article today stating that some of the defendants are now starting to fight among themselves? I think it was pretty smart for the President to get some money upfront before it gets drained away in bankruptcy and defensive litigation. To say its unconstitutional is completely ridiculous. Huffman would be the first one to say in a different context that considered decisions made outside the courthouse would be best for the parties and those affected by those decisions. What is he saying that the parties were not equal and therefore it is unconstitutionally unfair. Bolox. If Obama can get the money, great because I suspect that will be all we get before they manage away their liabilities under the guidance of Goldman Sachs.

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    This is a pivotal and defining issue between the GOP and the Dem. parties. The GOP believes in the primacy of corporate power over public right. The multinational corporation has the right to ravage the natural resources, ecological systems that sustain life, and the entire economy of a region of the U.S. with impunity, and not be held accountable to pay for it by the federal govt. Corporate power reigns supreme over individual and public rights. They even make the case that corporations have more power than individual persons under the U.S. Constitution. Exhibit A- the recent Citizen's United SCOTUS decision on campaign finance and free speech.

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      Bill does your chagrin over the recent free speech decision extend to the fact that unions were also given the same pass regarding the decision? Or does your diatribe merely start and end with the evil corporations?

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        Kurt, there's a key difference between unions and corporations:

        Unions are democratic institutions, corporations are not.

        Can you tell me where in the U.S. Constitution spending money is equated with free speech? Are "penumbras, formed by emanations" only evil to conservatives when they protect individual rights, but now when they give new "rights" to corporations?

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          Actually Michael there is no difference between the governance of a union and a corporation. Both have rules that they utilize and vote on to formulate policy and direction. both have a governing board that makes other decisions on the organization's behalf. Neither is an individual and neither should have been found able to make unlimited monetary contributions by the Supremes.

          The ruling was a bad ruling. However, anyone who thinks unions are about individual rights is smoking some of southern Oregon's finest medical frade cannibis.

          Michael you fell for the ploy that unions are different from corporations in the eyes of the court. They are not. I would reverse your theorem; are these same rights anethma when applied to corporations yet allowed to stand for unions?

          You can not have the argument both ways. But nice try and have fun with the home version of the game.

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            Oh, come on, Kurt, there's a huge difference between governance of a union and governance of a corporation: Votes in a union are one per person, votes in a corporation are one per share. That's a giant difference.

            I made no comment about the court ruling as it pertains to unions -- you're making assumptions about that.

            Unions aren't perfect -- they're run by humans, after all. But their stated mission is to make life better for their members. They don't always live up to that -- I'll certainly give you that, but it's a far different mission than making the most money for shareholders.

            The biggest problem with modern corporations is their focus on maximizing profits for shareholders, and ignoring the others affected by their actions -- customers, employees, and the public at large.

            And the public at large gives shareholders a huge benefit by limiting their liability. In return, it's more than reasonable to demand that corporations operate in ways that don't negatively impact customers, employees, and the public at large.

            Conservatives, however, believe that the sole focus of the corporation should be to maximize profits for shareholders, and that's just plain wrong.

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        Kurt, if you are asking if I am consistent, the answer is yes. I believe that constitutional rights apply to individual persons and not to organizational entities of any sort, whether they be corporate entities or unions, or paper contrived and constructed entities of convenience.

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    The Supreme Court ruling that made these entities persons for purposes of the 1st Amendment exacerbated the fundamental problem of lack of election finance reform, without which our government will always be bought and sold. It was a completely unwarranted assertion since a corporation is a creature of statue, wholly dependent on it for its existence. There is no constitutional right of existence for corporations so we could simply pull their limited liability any time we deemed it appropriate, which might be sooner than they think as all this oil continues to gush out. So this was an ideologically driven decision. Can we guess why? Corporations, by far, have more money to sink into elections than any other entity. And why would they ever throw money at our leaders? I can only imagine. Old Barton reflected the views of his contributors.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, conservatives have been whining about unions. This is more than curious since the number of people in unions is miniscule to the whole working population. I sincerely doubt that they could match dollar for dollar what corporations have to contribute. They are regulated by statute but surely would have a constitutional right to exist. But they are just a bone in their throat. Progressives have a hard time taking that in at any deep level because they always place people over profit. I am sure that is because they know we are all on borrowed time here on earth. But maybe that only applies to progressives?

    In short, it is my belief that the days of talking points and dire predictions are over. This hideous situation in the gulf IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW as we sit powerlessly. It changes everything.

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      I've been thinking for awhile that it's time to consider revoking the limited liability of corporations in situations where there clearly is wrongdoing on the part of the corporation.

      If investors know that they could be held liable for up to 10 times their investment, they might put more energy into making sure that the companies in which they invest act responsibly.

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    The Dem. Party seems to realize that the Joe Barton statement, not a gaffe, is a statement of governmental philosophy. It is an iconic moment of honest GOP self revelation, that they are quickly trying to back away from. The future governance of our party and our world is about the pre-eminance of the dignity and worth of the human person vs. utter domination by and capitulation to the wealth and power of multinational corporations. If America stands for anything,means anything, in its gift to the world, it is the dignity and worth of human personhood, a calling we have yet to live up to. That is what the Dem. Party needs to make its message in presenting a choice to the American people.

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    This from Paul Abrams on Huffington Post

    "When Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), a former oil executive whose company was purchased by BP, read his prepared text apologizing to BP for President Obama's securing a $20B relief fund to pay the first part of damages from the Gulf Oil spill, he was following Republican Party orthodoxy, consistent with Republican National Committee banner ads.

    But those same words on public television triggered an immediate backlash. (The medium is indeed "the massage".) Rand Paul, whose true persona was also exposed on television, referred to it as "piling on", and that he "felt Barton's pain". Of course he did. Barton had committed the cardinal sin -- he had exposed, for all to see, the "DNA" of the Republican Party -- not just that they have a cozy relationship with big oil (and big business in general), but that they were really one and the same. Do their bidding in Congress and get re-elected. Lose an election and work for them in a lobbying firm or, if you need a more prestigious title, a belief tank that they fund to publish pseudo-scholarly pieces designed to provide excuses for whatever policy they consider best for them. Elected officials are the troops. Big business interests are their paymasters. It is one big, happy, loving family."

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