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The $20B “escrow fund” may turn out to be a slush fund, but it wasn’t the result of a shakedown

I am a conservative for a wide variety of reasons.  I am skeptical of utopian attempts to “perfect man” or to “socially engineer” society.  I am skeptical of the power of fiat, and respect the power of unintended consequences.  My conservatism is also based on the premise that truth is the highest value.  The metaphysical forces  of faith, hope, and love are by definition false if not grounded in truth.

In the aftermath of Rep. Barton’s comments about the $20B “shakedown” for the Obama “slush fund” I have found myself in strong disagreements with people I would typically be in agreement with.  I would characterize myself to be a straight-up Reagan conservative.  I almost always find myself in agreement with someone like Rush Limbaugh in terms of substance, and often in terms of process/strategy.

My instincts and experience on the issue of the $20B “escrow account” was that it probably wasn’t BP’s first choice, but that they probably agreed to it without much arm twisting—definitely not arm twisting of a magnitude to justify the characterization of a “shake down” or “extortion.”

As an attorney and an engineer, I appreciate the inefficiencies and costs of litigation.  I also appreciate the fact that when it comes to the issue of damages, it is easy for courts to treat similar claims differently, even if the courts are in the same jurisdiction.  Conduct some legal research on consequential damages in the 50 United States, and you will see that even courts in the same state aren’t consistent on the issue.

The bottom line is that I didn’t think BP’s acqiescence to the “escrow fund” was inherently stupid, and thus I didn’t see that acquisence as inherently the result of a shakedown.  Not saying it was a wise decision, but it wasn’t per se stupid either.  I do think that Obama has instituted so many transgressions against conservative values that we as a conservative community understandably were quick to put this particular action in the same category as other crowning Obama “achievements.”

The truth of the matter, is quite different.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/do_republicans_deserve_credit.html

Apparently:
(1) The original idea for a non-BP managed “escrow account” came from Republicans, not Obama or the White House.

(2) BP agreed to fund the $20B escrow account BEFORE the meeting at the White House.

The evidence in support of the two propositions above can be found here below:

Do Republicans deserve partial credit for the BP fund?

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who was an oil and gas engineer before he started his career in politics, says President Obama is politicizing the BP escrow fund after having little to do with it being set up.

[T]he real story here is that BP had already made the decision to set aside $20 billion to compensate those harmed by this tragic disaster several days prior to the President’s speech. The true outrage is that this was never the President’s idea at all, and he should be ashamed for pretending it was for political purposes.

On Thursday, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao told me that he pressed BP on the fund idea a month ago, inspired by the example of Exxon after its 1989 spill off the coast of Alaska. And on Friday I talked with Ray McKinney, another engineer, who is running for Congress in Georgia against Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.). McKinney stressed that there was no serious disagreement about the escrow issue, and said Democrats were concocting a political debate when all that mattered was making BP pay and investigating the disaster.

I think the reason Barton agreed to “recant” his apology is in large part because the Republican leadership understands the point above.  Given the value that conservatives place on truth, we should get past attacking the creation of the “escrow account” on the basis of coercion and instead focus on making sure that it functions properly.

UPDATE: The full money quote direcly from R-Franks press release:

“However, the real story here is that BP had already made the decision to set aside $20 billion to compensate those harmed by this tragic disaster several days prior to the President’s speech. The true outrage is that this was never the President’s idea at all, and he should be ashamed for pretending it was for political purposes.”

http://franks.house.gov/press_releases/467

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