The older I get, the more that I realize I don't know. This morning's example: I realized I don't know what, if anything, prevents Congressmen from participating in official action that directly impacts their stock holdings.
That's even after I dug around for a while trying to find any statute or regulation or House Rule preventing a Congressman from participating in legislative action that would directly impact his bottom line. I couldn't find jack shit. Now, granted, I'm really not into these whole reading and legal research crazes. The best cases are the ones you make up. I like ones that appear to support my argument by reference to classic philosophical conundrums. (Predestination, Inc. v. Will Free, 123 Hobbes.App.3d 321 (2010).) Still, you'd think that if there's any rule that says "Congressman, if you hold a quarter-million dollars of shares of BP, you can't use your official position to shield them from criminal investigation and guide Congress' response to their Valdez-exceeding incompetence."
You'd be wrong, I guess. Just ask Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin, R-BP).
Worth more than $251,000 just a few years ago, Sensenbrenner's 3,604 shares of BP PLC stock had plunged in value to just $118,000 by the end of trading Thursday. That's roughly half their value the day before the April 20 oil spill. Sensenbrenner has said his net worth is about $10 million.
The No. 2 Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and a former chairman, Sensenbrenner has kept a low profile on the issue, but now he's coming out swinging: He has written a letter to President Barack Obama questioning BP's actions and the adequacy of the White House response — but refrains from directly criticizing BP for the spill.
Sensenbrenner also has complained about the government's criminal investigation into the circumstances of the oil spill. He said the Justice Department should have identified specific companies it might be targeting for its investigation and that threatening to prosecute BP in court could prevent the company from cooperating fully with Washington.
"BP and the government need each other," Sensenbrenner wrote in a column published Thursday on his website. "So, I question again, how is the president publicly chastising and threatening BP with criminal actions — a company that has pledged to pay for the damage caused by the oil spill accident and who likely wants this resolved more than anyone — helping to stop the oil?"
Tex (a nickname Sensenbrenner apparently carries not because he wears big hats or hates Thomas Jefferson, but because he's heir to a Kotex fortune) thinks he doesn't need to recuse himself. "He plans to participate in the Judiciary Committee's investigation surrounding legal liability issues of the spill."
There are surely complex and thoughtful solutions to the lacunae in the rules that bind our leaders to decent and ethical conduct.
But don't ask me about them. I have a conflict of interest.
I'm investing in rope.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017