May 24, 2010

After Sarah Palin suggested that there is a connection between Obama's response to oil spill and BP's financial contributions to him on Fox News Sunday, Robert Gibbs shot down her accusations on Face the Nation.

PALIN: Well, I think that there is, perhaps, a hesitancy, to -- I don't really know how to put this, Chris, except to say that the oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign and are supportive of him now, I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration -- if there's any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now if this was President Bush or if this were a Republican in office who hadn't received as much support even as President Obama has from BP and other oil companies, you know the mainstream media would be all over his case in terms of asking questions, why the administration didn't get in there -- didn't get in there and make sure that the regulatory agencies were doing what they were doing with the oversight to make sure that things like this don't happen.

Gibbs: Palin Should Get More Informed About Drilling:

"Sarah Palin was involved in that election, but I don't think, apparently, was paying a whole lot of attention," Gibbs said. "I'm almost sure that the oil companies don't consider the Obama administration a huge ally - we proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge for gasoline."

"My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what's going on in and around oil drilling in this country," he added.

As CBS noted, the back and forth between Palin and Gibbs continued after he was on the air. They also did a bit of fact checking on campaign donations on all sides from the oil companies including Palin.

According to Open, BP's campaign contributions during the 2008 election cycle were $214,915 to Democrats, and $315,909 to Republicans (about 40/60), split almost evenly between individual contributions and PACs.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, during Palin's 2006 run for Governor in Alaska (where the large majority of donations came from individuals), BP America made the fifth-largest donation by a company to her campaign, contributing $4,650, with BP Alaska giving an additional $250.

As Media Matters pointed out after the right wing started calling this Obama's Katrina, the administration did respond to the spill immediately, so that part of her argument falls flat as well. The response has been inadequate and they should not have trusted BP's early estimates on how much oil was leaking, but you can't say they weren't out there from day one. Their bigger problem was not cleaning up the MMS and catering to the "drill baby drill" crowd like Palin in order to get some bipartisan support for their energy legislation.

Chris Wallace also allowed Palin to do some revisionist history when she claimed that she knows "what it takes to hold these oil companies accountable". Uh...not so much.

Palin’s Exxon Valdez account draws guffaws:

Sarah Palin’s new memoir, “Going Rogue,” already has been strongly criticized by John McCain’s aides for her account as a vice presidential candidate on the ticket with him in their unsuccessful 2008 race for the White House.

Now, add Alaskan experts who were involved in the case over the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster saying her account over her role in the litigation is distorted for a number of reasons.

In the book, Palin claims to have helped the fishermen, Alaska Natives and other individuals suing Exxon over spill damages prevail in their legal case.

“It took years for Alaska to achieve victory. As governor, I directed our attorney general to write an amicus brief in the case, and, thanks to Alaska’s able attorneys arguing in front of the highest court in the land, in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the people,” she writes in her book. “Finally, Alaskans could recover some of their losses.”

But Palin’s claims of victory for the plaintiffs and of playing a role in achieving that victory are highly distorted, said the chief attorney for the approximately 32,000 plaintiffs that sued Exxon over damages from the worst oil-tanker spill in U.S. waters.

“That is the most cockamamie bullshit,” said Dave Oesting of Anchorage, lead plaintiff attorney in the private litigants’ civil case against Exxon and its successor, Exxon Mobil Corp. “She didn’t have a damn thing to do with it, and she didn’t know what it was about.” Read on...

And as I already noted, the Bush administration DOJ shut down a criminal investigation of BP, so there was no accountability.

Scott West: The U.S. Government Has Taught BP That it Can Do Whatever it Wants:

SCOTT WEST: But by August of '07, something had shifted dramatically, and we were told by the US attorney's office in Alaska that the case would settle out for corporate misdemeanor. And at the meeting that I attended there in late August, the question was asked, if we had to go to trial today, what could we prove? And I had to admit that a trial at that moment, the most we could prove was a corporate misdemeanor. And then I said, "But we’re not done with our investigation. We’ve only just begun. We need another couple of years to really vet this out." And they said, well, can I guarantee that I would be able to convict individuals. And I said, "Of course not. You can’t guarantee anything like that in the criminal investigative arena." And so, with that, they said, "Well, then we’re done." And I was in shock. It’s unheard of for a special agent in charge to be denied the opportunity to complete an investigation that was so far from nearing its end. And then—

AMY GOODMAN: So you have the EPA considering penalties of upwards of, what, 800—or $672 million, possibly felony charges against BP executives, and they end up settling for $20 million?

SCOTT WEST: Yes, they ended up settling for $20 million. And I was told there was a couple of reasons for that $20 million figure. One, we have to go back to the Olympic Pipe Line case. The Olympic pipeline ruptured in Bellingham, Washington in 1999, and the resulting spill of gasoline into a stream caught fire. Three individuals were burned to death, and a stream was destroyed. That case was investigated by EPA out of the Seattle office. In '99 and 2000, it was considered a very significant criminal case in the US attorney's office in Seattle, which was at that time under the Clinton administration.

When the Bush administration took over at the Department of Justice, and the US attorney came in, it was—became a bottom-of-the-barrel case and was ultimately settled out for a very low amount of money. And I have been talking with one of the investigators on that case, and he said the amount of money that was determined as the fine in that matched what the insurance companies were willing to pay. So Olympic Pipe Line essentially did not have to actually pay the fine, but it was covered by their insurance company. Now, that Olympic Pipe Line settlement became the benchmark, within the Bush Department of Justice, for environmental crime.

Yeah, that's some accountability Sarah. There are plenty of more than valid reasons to be criticizing what's gone on with this oil spill and the response. Sarah Palin doesn't have an ounce of credibility to be the one making any of them, but that won't stop Fox News from bringing her on as though she does.

h/t aview999 for the Reuters link.

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