This past week, the campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Robin Carnahan released a hit video criticizing Republican Senate candidate Rep. Roy Blunt about his response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The video claims that "BP's Bill for Cleanup is only $75M" and that supposedly, Blunt is OK with that.
One problem: current law does NOT cap cleanup costs at $75M. It clearly states that the violator (BP, in this case), must pay the ENTIRE cost for spill cleanup, plus $75M. BP has already committed to reimbursing any legitimate claims for financial impact, and has even appointed an independent mediator to intervene for disputed claims.
You would think that Carnahan's campaign consultants would have at least read the law before creating their hit vid - but you would be wrong. As the KC Star points out, the wording is crystal clear:
Except as otherwise provided in this section, the total of the liability of a responsible party under section 2702 of this title and any removal costs incurred by, or on behalf of, the responsible party, with respect to each incident shall not exceed... ...(3) for an offshore facility except a deepwater port, the total of all removal costs plus $75,000,000...
Not much room for misinterpretation of that bolded section, eh?
The Star article posted several updates after exposing the Carnahan campaign screwup, including their claims that "uh, we meant the economic impact..." But the captions and wording of the ad are pretty clear, and they clearly refer to cleanup costs.
On Friday, factcheck.org ripped the Carnahan videos to shreds, debunking their hits on Blunt's alleged connection to "big oil", while referring to Robin's campaign buffonery as "Phony Big Oil Bailout Claims" and thoroughly destroying and ridiculing their hack job:
The first video, released May 20 and titled “Congressman Blunt’s Big Oil Bailout,” claims "Blunt refuses to make them pay the billions in damage they’ve caused.” But Blunt was merely explaining the current law, which is the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The law — which was approved by the House and Senate in August 1990 without a single "no" vote — provides that “holders of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deepwater ports, are liable for up to $75 million per spill, plus removal costs.” The Carnahan campaign provided a full transcript of Blunt’s speech that shows Blunt had prefaced his statement by emphasizing the need to understand the law because there are "going to be liability issues out there that you need to be thoughtful about.” It’s misleading to characterize leaving current law intact as a "bailout." The Oxford English Dictionary defines a bailout as “an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business.” Simply put, a “bailout” requires action, and there is no proposal to provide oil companies with any economic relief.
Carnahan’s video also exaggerates Blunt’s sympathy for BP — at the expense of taxpayers — when it quotes only this portion of his May 18 speech: “If you have an accident, is an accident an accident or is it only the responsibility of the one company it happens to?” But the full transcript shows Blunt was wondering whether all oil companies should share the risk, not whether taxpayers should foot the bill because it was a mere accident. The video emphasizes the word "accident" by also splicing in Blunt’s comment that "accidents can happen" from an interview that same day on local radio station KMOX. Blunt certainly speculates that the recent Gulf spill may be an accident, but the full quote is: "Accidents can happen; we’ll see if this was an accident, or if this was negligence." And in that same radio interview, he also says that BP will be held responsible for the damages. In response to the question, “Will you be working to ensure that the responsible parties will have to pay this and their damages and their cost on this won’t be capped?” Blunt responded: “Sure, I think that’s exactly what everybody should expect. I think that’s what should happen.”
The factcheck.org article also cites Rep. Blunt's sponsorship of a new bill, the "Oil Spill Response and Assistance Act," which would, among other things, significantly raise the economic impact liability limits, require more capability to respond with "booms" and other measures, and encourage more technological research on spill/leak capping. This bill is a companion to a similar bill introduced in the Senate. If this bill was in place now, BP's liability would be capped at approximately $20B - its last four quarters of profits...double the $10B being proposed by Senate Democrats. Now who is being easy on "big oil"?
At the conclusion of their analysis, Factcheck accurately describes the Carnahan hit campaign as "... a misleading narrative built on out-of-context quotations, a flawed understanding of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and an inaccurate use of the word "bailout."
Unfortunately, they missed pointing it out as an incompetent attempt at misleading Missourians as a result of Carnahan's failing to actually read the law. Ms. Carnahan, we expect more from our Senators (and from our Secretary of State, for that matter) than a first-grade level of reading comprehension.