Congressman Joe Barton was but one of many Republican politicians and political commentators to term BP's creation of a $20 billion victim's trust fund a "shakedown" by the Obama administration. It was extralegal, thuggish, Chicago-style politics, the criticism goes. But if the Obama administration was so ruthlessly exploiting poor powerless BP, then why did BP end up just saying "no" to any demands they didn't agree with? During their big meeting last week, according to The Wall Street Journal, BP "fended off demands to pay for restoration of the Gulf coast beyond its prespill conditions." And here's how things went when the administration tried to get BP to pay for oil workers who are currently jobless because of Obama's six-month deepwater drilling moratorium:
When the president and vice president left the room, [BP lawyers Jamie Gorelick] told White House negotiators their legal position mandating BP's assistance to displaced workers was weak. White House officials conceded such workers may not be able to qualify for direct assistance under the $20 billion fund, a White House official in the room said.
A BP negotiator said the White House position was "half-hearted" and its negotiators quickly gave up.
In the end, BP threw the Obama administration and the oil workers a $100 million bone as "a goodwill gesture," because that is like Monopoly money to them, and because they felt bad about exposing how unthreatening the almighty "shakedown artists" really were.