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If you wonder why normal folks want nothing to do with politics, look no further than the latest smear campaign by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Piggybacking on the unpopularity of BP and the mess that is the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, Democrats have launched a website and campaign that claims House Minority Leader John Boehner wants taxpayers to help pay for the clean up.

It’s a lie.

It’s a lie for two reasons.

First, the law is clear that BP is responsible for every bit of clean up. TPM knows this, so does the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Second, the D’s know that Boehner has not spoken out against this part of the law. Boehner was on the record before this week: “Not a dime of taxpayer money should be used to clean up [the BP] mess.”

So what happened?

Democrats are deliberately conflating clean up costs with liability costs.

On Thursday, Talking Points Memo reported that Boehner “said he believes taxpayers should help pick up the tab for the clean up.”

But that is not what Boehner said when TPMDC asked him if he agreed with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which TPM said “opposes efforts to stick BP, a member of the Chamber, with the bill.” [Note: TPM hasn’t bothered to share the wording of the question.]

I think the people responsible in the oil spill–BP and the federal government–should take full responsibility for what’s happening there.

Could Boehner have been more clear? Undoubtedly.

But the TPM characterization of the Chamber’s position is wrong, too.

The Chamber was talking about the liability limit, not the clean up. And by reporting the event in a way that muddied the waters, so to speak, between liability and cleanup, TPM knowingly created a brouhaha where one did not exist.

Should we change the $75 million cap on liability — a cap that a Democratic Congress enacted post-Exxon Valdez in the 1990 Oil Pollution Act — in events like this? I think the answer is clearly “yes” (and if there is a limit, there should be an inflation adjustment in the law – Congress really needs lessons in basic economics). But I’m guessing that the GOP leadership will be unified in its opposition to such a change.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act (S. 3305) which would raise the $75 million cap to $10 billion and make it retroactive to 15 April 15 2010. Ex post facto law is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 9, and is ethically questionable.

Should the “federal government” (ie, me and you) be responsible for anything regarding clean up? To the extent that it can be shown that the federal government bears responsibility, yes. I don’t know that the feds are culpable, but if MMS signed off on the design of this well and an investigation shows that something other than ignorance/stupidity was at play then the federal government has to bear some responsibility.

Shame on TPM. How could an organization that demonstrated tenacity and (I thought) integrity in breaking AttorneyGate do something like this? I used to trust you — but this is the second story in a week where I’ve seen you cross a line, moving from reporting to posturing.

And an ever bigger shame on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Saying “it’s an election year” may explain the behavior but it doesn’t excuse it. And it’s behavior like this that makes it ever-more-difficult to govern and ever-more-likely that more Americans will rank politicians below dog catchers and used car salesmen on “professions most respected” lists.

It’s little wonder that the latest Congressional “job performance” approval stands at 11 percent (Rasmussen), with only three percent of “mainstream” voters rating performance as “good or excellent.” Maybe with ratings that low, Congress simply doesn’t care.

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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