August 19, 2005


A secret giveaway to energy giants
by Jim Hightower

Sigh. I miss Newt Gingrich.

Remember 1994 when The Newt came to power in Congress pushing his "Contract With America?" OK, Newt was a self-basting butterball of right-wing nuttiness, but his Contract actually contained a couple of good ideas — including a solemn pledge that when his Republican majority took over there'd be an open and honest legislative process.

Sure, Pollyanna. Once the GOP took charge, power and money quickly wiped their feet on the ideal of procedural honesty, and the Republican majority now routinely engages in underhanded legislative nastiness. Check out a squalid little provision call "Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources," which was literally snuck into the recently passed energy bill.

This insert takes $1.5 billion of our tax money and puts it in a fund that will be doled out to oil and gas giants — yes, corporations already wallowing in profits. The bulk of the fund is to be administered not by a public agency, but by a private consortium made up of — Gosh, who would've thought it? — oil and gas giants. This private consortium happens to be headquartered in the congressional district of the house's sleazeball majority leader, Tom DeLay, and its directors include such GOP campaign backers as Halliburton.

If this legislative product is not slimy enough for you, check out the process that produced it. The provision was never introduced, debated and voted upon as an amendment to the energy bill. Rather, it was snuck in by Joe Barton, a Tom DeLay henchman who chaired the closed-door conference committee that finalized the energy bill. Only after he had gaveled the conference over did he and three cohorts on the committee team up to slip this boondoggle provision into the bill. It was approved, with only a handful of members even knowing it was there.

It's time to take out a new contract on these legislative thugs.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com.


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