One Law for the People, Another for Corporations
(You might want to read the brief article quote at the bottom of the page – I am commenting on that.)
It is unlikely that any individual found responsible for environment damage to the state of New Jersey walked away with three cents on the dollar of what the state had laid claim to. But then it is unlikely any individual would have the power and influence of Exxon, in many ways the equivalent of a small nation without borders.
This isn’t a fine, it’s a claim. The difference is big. A fine would be a form of punishment to deter the wrongdoer. A claim is what is owed. Exxon contaminated the land and water of New Jersey for many years. This has consequences.
This is an enormous wealth transfer on several levels. First, Exxon does not have to pay the vast bulk of the claim. Second, Exxon profited from evading its responsibilities to not harm the state and country in which it operated. Third, a powerful message has been sent to every responsible public official that once a corporation has been brought to the docket and wrongdoing adjudicated, their efforts, their idealism, and their commitment to the public interest are less than nothing to political figures with other priorities.
On the other side of the deal are the people of New Jersey. It is they who suffer from Exxon’s actions and it is they who will pay for the cleanup. They are, in effect, subsidizing Exxon and its shareholders. For the citizens of New Jersey, this will not be a one time pay off. The people are likely to suffer the effects of environmental degradation for the foreseeable future and the continuing expense will last for decades and will quite likely never be able to restore what was taken.
For the public, the deal is a disaster but for the political class, it is a bonanza. This is an off year. So, any negative publicity will die down before the election. Any left over pain can be dealt with by active public relations financed by campaign contributions given by those whose faith in the kind of justice dealt out in New Jersey justifies the expenditure.
This is not a form of bribery. These are campaign contributions. They only appear as bribery to those without the proper legal education.
Remember what Justice Kennedy said in Citizens United – “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
It is obvious that Justice Kennedy is right. The campaign contributions and soft money given by billionaires and giant international corporations are just speech – just like you talking to your neighbor about some issue.
A cynic would say that the interests of the nine million people were overridden in the name of corporate influence. But we in America are not cynical. We know that enormous political expenditures by corporations with more income than most nations on the earth are a form of speech representing their valid interest in the lively marketplace of ideas necessary for a democracy.
And we in America owe Exxon and Justice Kennedy our sincere thanks for making this a nation where money is speech and that freedom to speak is sacred.
But today no one owes more to our Supreme Court than the people of New Jersey who will live with the toxins from Exxon for decades or quite possibly, centuries to come.
Christie’s Office Drove Exxon Settlement, Ex-Official Says – NYTimes.com
For more than a decade, the New Jersey attorney general’s office conducted a hard-fought legal battle to hold Exxon Mobil Corporation responsible for decades of environmental contamination in northern New Jersey.
But when the news came that the state had reached a deal to settle its $8.9 billion claim for about $250 million, the driving force behind the settlement was not the attorney general’s office — it was Gov. Chris Christie’s chief counsel, Christopher S. Porrino, two people familiar with the negotiations said.