Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
FATTENING WALL STREET — Mike Whitney reports on the rapid metamorphosis of new Fed Chair Janet Yallin into a lackey for the bankers, bond traders and brokers. The New Religious Wars Over the Environment: Joyce Nelson charts the looming confrontation between the Catholic Church and fundamentalists over climate change, extinction and GMOs; A People’s History of Mexican Constitutions: Andrew Smolski on the 200 year-long struggle of Mexico’s peasants, indigenous people and workers to secure legal rights and liberties; Spying on Black Writers: Ron Jacobs uncovers the FBI’s 50 year-long obsession with black poets, novelists and essayists; O Elephant! JoAnn Wypijewski on the grim history of circus elephants; PLUS: Jeffrey St. Clair on birds and climate change; Chris Floyd on the US as nuclear bully; Seth Sandronsky on Van Jones’s blind spot; Lee Ballinger on musicians and the State Department; and Kim Nicolini on the films of JC Chandor.
Strip Down Price Gouging Bill

House Democrats Buckle to Big Oil

by CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER

Behold the spineless Democratic Party.

On Iraq, no deadlines.

On trade, no enforceable worker protections.

Now, on oil industry price gouging, collapse.

In the face of withering pressure from the oil industry, the Democrats in the House, led by Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), have reportedly castrated their own legislation.

Stupak’s original bill–HR 1252–would make it unlawful to sell crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, or petroleum distillates at a price that "is unconscionably excessive" or "indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions (whether real or perceived) or the circumstances of an emergency to increase prices unreasonably."

The law would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

But according to a report by Darren Goode in Congress Daily AM, late last night, Stupak "added a trigger to his bill allowing the FTC to go after price gougers only during presidentially-declared energy emergencies."

In other words–almost never.

Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch called the move "pretty unfortunate."

Slocum said that Stupak’s original bill would have given the FTC long needed powers to go after oil companies in situations like the one the country is facing today–skyrocketing gasoline prices.

"There is no question that the record high gasoline prices we are seeing today amount to just a transfer of wealth," Slocum said. "Up until this point, the FTC has not moved, because the antitrust laws on the books are so weak. There is no price gouging law currently on the books."

Stupak and more than 100 House members said they wanted to put that law on the books. But now, it looks like the Democrats have once again caved to the dominant corporate powers that be.

The House will vote on the bill later today.

Slocum said that Public Citizen was strongly in favor of the original Stupak bill.

But if the bill is going to be similar to a bill introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington)–only enforceable in times of energy emergencies–Public Citizen would not fight for it.

"This shows the oil industry still holds sway over the Democratic Party," Slocum said. "Things are definitely different, but not that much different. Are you going to see the Democrats taking big swings at Big Oil? No."

Stupak’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

Slocum said that some environmental groups want to see higher gasoline prices so that Americans drive less–like in Europe.

"But in Europe, the gasoline prices are higher because of taxes," Slocum said. "And the taxes are used to fund mass transit. Here, the money goes straight to the oil companies. It’s just a transfer of wealth."

CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER is located in Washington, DC. They can be reached through their website.