A bureaucratic oversight has allowed 24 oil companies to avoid more than $1.3 billion in royalties for the privilege of extracting oil and natural gas from U.S. territory in the Gulf of Mexico – with foreign companies responsible for 55 percent of that total. But this $1.3 billion in forgone royalties pale in comparison to the $60 billion that Americans stand to lose in royalty revenue over the life of these leases. And if Congress repeals the moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) drilling that has existed since 1982, these freeloading oil companies will be eligible to bid on new leases, providing them with more record profits while American families are left holding the bag. These 24 companies have posted a combined $365 billion in profits since 2006.
Archive for July, 2008
By David Arkush, Taylor Lincoln, and Peter Gosselar
Last November, Public Citizen released “The Arbitration Trap,” a scathing report exposing the one-sided nature of “justice” for consumers trapped by the National Arbitration Forum. The report inspired a lawsuit against the NAF by the city of San Francisco (WSJ[$], Watchdog Blog) and an in-depth examination of the practice by BusinessWeek (previous Watchdog Blog coverage here, Watchdog Blog’s analysis of NAF’s response to the article here).
“The Arbitration Trap” also prompted the Chamber of Commerce to commission a Catholic University law professor, Peter B. Rutledge, to write an official response. The Chamber also gave Rutledge financial support for a law review article in which he reviews empirical evidence on arbitration. These papers claimed that the broad sweep of serious academic research shows that our report was just plain wrong – “both on the facts and in its ultimate conclusions.”
We decided to check up on these academic papers. And – guess what? – it turns out that Rutledge and Co. don’t quite have the goods to back up their talk. In fact, their own sources don’t support their claims. Not a single comparative study Rutledge cites showed that individuals received larger average awards in arbitration than court. On other measures, the studies favored court overwhelmingly.
From Kim Jarrett @ Texas Vox: The effect of deregulation has been harmful to Texans of all social backgrounds and economic levels across the state. It has turned the idea of competition on its head—people have a choice now, but it’s not cheaper. Essentially, deregulation has replaced forcing people to buy cheaply from public sources with forcing people to pay higher prices from a private company of their choosing. >> Continue Reading
Today, we’re raising our eyebrows a little more after discovering how members of Congress use the $1.3 million to $1.63 million they get each year to run their offices – the swanky name for this money is a “Member’s Representational Allowance.”
The findings aren’t exactly making lawmakers appear thrifty.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) spent $11,224 for four Sony Bravia 46-inch, high-definition LCD TVs for his Chicago-area offices. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) shelled out $1,864.18 for a barbecue with colleagues at Red, Hot & Blue, and almost as much ($1,425) for Chinese food from Meiwah. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) purchased “tropical interior plants” for $190.
When Congress enacted the Transportation, Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, a landmark auto safety bill, in 2000, it envisioned a regulation that would put an end to auto industry cover-ups and failed detection of safety defects, such as the Ford/Firestone tire fiasco that resulted in hundreds of deaths. It envisioned a database that would allow consumers to see if they were experiencing similar problems, and increase accountability so federal investigations wouldn’t grow stagnant.
But that’s not exactly what Congress got.