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General News    H3'ed 6/1/10

Oil Is About To Visit the Alabama Coast

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Message Roger Shuler
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Alabama, which perhaps has sucked up to corporate interests more than any other state over the past 15 to 20 years, is about to pay a huge price.

The Associated Press reports that oil from the massive BP leak is forecast to hit Alabama's shores for the first time on Wednesday afternoon.

Reports AP:

A forecast map issued Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a light sheen of oil completely covering the mouth of Mobile Bay and coming ashore in Baldwin County by noon Wednesday.

The NOAA maps note that moderate south to southwest winds are forecast for the upcoming week, which "indicate that oil may move north to threaten the barrier islands off Mississippi and Alabama."

How bad could it get?

"I think it's uncharted territory for everybody," said Bethany Kraft, the director of the Alabama Coastal Foundation.

It is deeply ironic that oil is about to befoul Alabama's gorgeous beaches as voters go to the polls today in our state's primary election. Thousands of Alabama voters will reflexively pull the lever for the very Republican candidates who are backed by corporate interests, the same interests whose malfeasance has brought disaster to the Gulf of Mexico.

How strong is big oil's grip on Alabama politics? Consider the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling in November 2007 that, in an 8-1 vote, overturned most of a $3.5 billion fraud verdict against ExxonMobil.

All eight justices who voted to overturn the verdict are Republicans. And who provided much of their funding. Scott Horton, of Harper's, tells us in a piece called "The Best Justice Money Can Buy."

First, Horton notes that Karl Rove and his buddy Bill Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, launched a campaign in 1992 to take over Alabama's appellate courts. Did it work? Well, 13 of the 14 justices on the Alabama Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Civil Appeals now are Republicans.

Does having "pro business" justices make a difference? ExxonMobil undoubtedly would say yes. Reports Horton:

So who funded the G.O.P.'s vise-like grip on the Alabama Supreme Court? The answer is complex, but part of it is: Exxon Mobil did.

In the last six years, Republican candidates for the state's highest court have taken more than $5.5 million in campaign contributions from Exxon Mobil lobbyists and lawyers, and groups allied with the company. That means that the eight judges who voted to throw out the state's massive jury award against Exxon Mobil were actually placed on the court with Exxon Mobil's money and support--though that support is almost all carefully funnelled in an indirect way, of course. Just think about it from a corporate perspective--an investment of $5.5 million to eliminate a $3.6 billion liability? The best investment those oil men ever made.

Where exactly did that $5.5 million come from? Horton reports:

├ éČ Tort-reform groups whose leadership include Exxon lobbyists, or who were funded indirectly by the company, made nearly $3 million in contributions to the GOP members of the Supreme Court.

├ éČ Seven Political Action Committees controlled by Exxon's Alabama lobbyists, Fine Geddie & Associates, made $293,000 in direct campaign contributions to the Supreme Court justices who ruled in the company's favor.

├ éČ Alabama lawyers who represent Exxon in the gas royalties suit gave thousands of dollars more to the justices who ruled in favor of Exxon in the case.

And then we have this:

├ éČ The biggest corporate trade group in Alabama, Billy Canary's Business Council of Alabama, also contributed at least $2.1 million to the GOP justices who ruled favorably to Exxon.

Bradley Byrne, who figures to come out on top in today's Republican primary and probably will win the general election in November, has strong ties to . . . the Business Council of Alabama.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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