President Barack Obama promised in his Oval Office speech that an “independent third party” would be responsible for overseeing the distribution of $20 billion in funds set-aside to compensate those harmed by the BP oil spill disaster. Apparently, though, “independence” is all in the eye of the beholder.
When that beholder is President Obama, an “independent third party” can apparently be someone from his own administration who serves at his will and direction. Enter Kenneth Feinberg, a Democrat, Obama administration pay czar, and now-overseer of the $20 billion BP trust fund. Unfortunately, his only true independence is from congressional approval and from the will of the American people. What’s more, he’s not independent from President Barack Obama. That’s dangerous, considering the extent of Feinberg’s unchecked power and nature of his job. As Russ Ferguson writes in The American Spectator:
Czars have almost unlimited power and are not subject to Congressional oversight like their cabinet-member counterparts.
That means the payment of claims under the new $20 billion escrow account will be another set of money that is controlled solely by the President. This is yet another instance of this President extending his reach. Another instance of upsetting the careful balance of powers our forefathers so prudently placed in our founding document.
Feinberg has made a living out of picking winners and losers — he managed the fund that compensated families of 9-11 victims, he did the same for victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, and he set the pay for top executives who received federal bail-out funds. President Obama spoke of his confidence in Feinberg’s ability to dole out the BP dollars, stating, “And I’m confident he will ensure that claims are administered as quickly, as fairly, and as transparently as possible.”
But fairness and transparency have taken on unique meanings within the Obama administration. As a candidate, Obama promised that health care negotiations would take place in the light of day, in front of C-SPAN cameras. In reality, they didn’t. And when President Obama called for a tax on banks who received bailout dollars, he did so on the basis of “fairness,” when in fact those who would get hit with the tax had already repaid their debt, while the auto industry hadn’t yet were not to be taxed.
Now, President Obama stands to redefine “independence,” too, with the appointment of one of his own czars to take on the task of allocating oil spill compensation funds. And he’s doing it all while flouting the rule of law, which evidently has no bearing on his ability to issue directives to corporate America. The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky writes of the way in which the Obama administration secured the $20 billion BP trust fund:
What is unseemly about this is the type of pressure involved and to what end. The president basically ignores the relevant federal statute by pressuring and threatening BP not just for more money prior to any judicial or other fair trial, but apparently for government (and therefore political) control over that money.
And that control is guaranteed with the selection of the not-so-independent Kenneth Feinberg.