The Dangerous Bill That Passed While Few Were Looking

H.J. Res 41 became PL 115-4 on February 14, 2017. So what?

Technically speaking, it provided for Congressional disapproval of a rule under Chapter 8 of Title 5 US code – which required extraction companies (read oil, gas, etc.) to report their payments to foreign governments.  Thus, major energy corporations need not report payments to foreign governments to the SEC. 

Only Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) of the Nevada congressional delegation voted in favor of this measure. Representatives Titus, Kihuen, and Rosen voted against this resolution. On the Senate side, Senator Dean Heller voted in favor of the bill, Senator Cortez Masto voted against it.

What were the excuses given for this first assault on the Dodd Frank Act?

The SEC’s proposed rule surrounding resource extraction pursuant to section 1504 of Dodd-Frank fails the agency’s core mission on multiple fronts,” said Huizenga, chairman of the Financial Services Capital Markets subcommittee, in a statement. He criticized the rule as “overly burdensome” and one that “puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, and fails to provide investors with useful information.” [TheStreet]

Excuse me, there they go again, any requirement that corporations behave with accountability and transparency is “overly burdensome.”  The “competitive disadvantage” part requires a bit more unpacking. We might roughly translate this as: “If American energy companies can’t hide their payments to foreign governments for oil and gas deals, then they will be at a disadvantage to those who can.” In less polite terms, we could call this the Freedom To Bribe Act of 2017.

“Fails to provide investors with useful information?”  What isn’t useful about knowing whether or not the corporation in which you have invested has used a portion of its income to “buy” assets in foreign countries?

At the signing, the President sputtered the usual pro-corporate drivel

We’re bringing back jobs big league. We’re bringing them back at the plant level, we’re bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back,” he continued. “A lot of people going back to work now.”

The measure has precious little to do with any jobs “big league” or “bigly.”  At the plant or any other level.  Senator Sherrod Brown was more precise:

“The rule they’re trying to repeal protects U.S. citizens and investors from having millions of their dollars vanished into the pockets of corrupt foreign oligarchs,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said earlier this month. “This kind of transparency is essential to combating waste, fraud, corruption and mismanagement.”

However, thanks to H.J. Res 41 and the Republicans in the House and Senate, and a very willing President, we will not have the “kind of transparency essential to combating waste, fraud, corruption, and mismanagement.” 

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