The charitable interpretation of Kenneth Feinberg’s plan to give the keynote speech Wednesday for the Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform is that he’s just deaf to the implications. When the administrator of the BP oil spill compensation fund opens his mouth, he’ll be validating a powerful and viciously anti-consumer organization whose parent, the Chamber, is deeply involved in pro-corporate politics.
Consumer Watchdog and OilWatchdog want President Obama to put Feinberg on a leash to yank him back from the Chamber’s podium–and maybe fire him.
The Institute for Legal Reform is a chief opponent of consumer rights, particularly the right to go to court. It opposed oil industry reform legislation in Congress after the BP spill, and took the side of Exxon against thousands of Alaskans financially ruined by the Exxon Valdez disaster. The Chamber subsidiary is also trying to stack state courts with pro-corporate judges, and the Chamber itself is funneling corporate campaign money to help pro-corporate candidates.
If Feinberg has a desk calendar, he surely knew that he’d be honoring the Chamber of Commerce with his presence less than a week before the mid-term election. His speech to dead-set opponents of consumer lawsuits against corporate wrongdoers is a slap in the face to thousands of fishermen, waitresses and business owners on the Gulf Coast.
The investigative newsroom ProPublica reported this week that Gulf residents whose oil spill loss claims have been moved onto the urgent list, and are even facing foreclosure, are still waiting weeks or months. Feinberg has issued a general apology for the interminable delays. But his appearance at the Chamber meeting, before corporate lawyers who seek only to protect corporate profits, speaks far louder than his press releases.
The president appointed Feinberg. He has the power to un-appoint him, and should use it if Feinberg goes ahead with this ill-timed, poorly considered speech.