Section 1504

More corruption, more bribery, more secrecy, more fuck everything in the name of corporate Success. More filth.

Back in 2010, ExxonMobil’s then-CEO, Rex Tillerson, was deeply worried about Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, a bipartisan amendment that required drilling and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments. So Tillerson and one of his lobbyists paid a half-hour visit to the amendment’s Republican co-author, then-Senator Richard Lugar, to try to get it killed.

Tillerson argued that forcing U.S. oil firms to reveal corporate secrets—such as paying foreign governments—would put them at a competitive disadvantage. He also explained that the provision would make it especially difficult for Exxon to do business in Russia, where, as he did not need to explain, the government takes a rather active interest in the oil industry. But Lugar believed greater transparency could help alleviate the “resource curse” of corruption that plagues so many mineral-rich countries, so he told Tillerson they would have to agree to disagree. Section 1504 stayed in the bill, the bill became law, and the disclosure requirement became an international example: France, Canada and the United Kingdom all went on to use it as a model for similar rules.

Good stuff. Well done Richard Lugar. Badly attempted Rex Tillerson – and that alone should have disqualified him to be Secretary of State.

But you know what’s coming next.

[T]he GOP is preparing to try to kill the disclosure rule created under Section 1504, despite warnings from international aid groups that the move would provide a wink-and-nod blessing to hidden corporate payments to petro-thugs. The House is expected to act this afternoon, and since the move relies on a special mechanism for reversing rules enacted late in a presidential term, Senate Republicans will need a mere majority rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes to follow suit.

So after all of Trump’s promises to drain the swamp, an anti-anti-corruption bill pushed by Big Oil and his own top diplomat might be the first policy legislation to reach his desk.

“It would be a real tragedy for democracy and human rights,” says Lugar, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who now leads a center in his name focusing on global issues.“It’s hard to believe this would be such a high priority right now.”

I find it all too easy to believe. The party of corruption and crony capitalism is wasting no time.

The so-called resource extraction rule is not one of President Obama’s most prominent legacies, but one reason getting rid of it is such a high Republican priority is that it’s one of his most vulnerable legacies. That’s because it was finalized only last June, two weeks too late to avoid scrutiny under the Congressional Review Act, a law allowing Congress to strike down end-of-term regulations with simple majorities. The CRA has been used only once before, when Congress erased a Clinton-era workplace ergonomics rule in 2001. But now that the Republicans have control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they hope to use the CRA to wipe out a variety of Obama rules, starting today with this and another measure opposed by extractive industries, a “stream protection” rule restricting discharges from mining operations.

Great. That’s what this country needs: more polluted streams.

“Why would Congress want to take a stand for facilitating corruption?” asked Jana Morgan, director of Publish What You Pay USA, a coalition of groups focused on accountability in the extractive industries. “Why would anyone want to help the oil industry hide payments to kleptocracies?”

Because that’s how they roll?

2 Responses to “Section 1504”