Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Who is making all that oil money again?

It's not often I get to toot my own horn (at least not with anyone else in the house), so I'll do so now. Before all the post-Katrina indignation about gas prices and how all the evil oil companies were gouging consumers, I wrote this post, which exposed the hypocrisy of Democrats on the issue.

Yesterday, Governor Doyle issued a statement that he would be calling oil executives from around the country to answer questions about rising gas prices. One question - since gas prices have actually fallen up to 80 cents per gallon over the last month without government intervention, why isn't he asking them to answer questions about why they are forfeiting enormous potential profits to keep prices down? What a cheap and tawdry tactic - pretend you are having some bogus investigation into gas prices, when in fact there is absolutely nothing Jim Doyle can do about the prices set by the market across the U.S. Even if there were a justification for government interference in the market, it would be a federal problem, not a state one. For Doyle to imply that he's doing something about gas prices is just a sham.

In the process of this obnoxious grandstanding, Doyle released this release on October 27th, in response to Exxon's third quarter earnings reports. In it, Doyle says:

“Following one of the biggest natural disasters to hit America, the world’s largest oil companies are reaping record profits. To price-gouge consumers under normal circumstances is dishonest enough, but to make money off of the misery of others is downright immoral.”

“This week’s reports make it crystal clear that these oil companies have reaped more than enough profits to give a refund to U.S. consumers,” Governor Doyle said. “There are proposals currently in Congress that would require a refund, but we have yet to see action on them. This issue is not going to go away on its own, or with action only on the state level. I again urge Congress to act immediately on behalf of millions of Americans by investigating the excessive profits being made by oil companies, and demanding a refund.”

Not to be outdone, Senator Russ Decker, who won't even let a high blood alcohol content keep him from filling his tank up with expensive gas, issued this release demanding oil companies give their profits back. He says:

“It turns my stomach to see these greedy oil companies who are already making enormous profits getting billions of dollars in tax breaks while the hard working folks in Wisconsin struggle to squeeze every nickel out of every dollar just to be able to fill up with gas so they can drive to work,” said Decker.

“If Congress does not act then we will demand that the Republican leadership in the Legislature convene a special session to review local windfall profits tax alternatives. I shudder at the thought that the children of Wisconsin will shiver in cold homes and schools this winter because of the unconscionable actions of the oil companies,” concluded Decker.


...Just make sure those poor children aren't out riding their bikes on a night Decker is plowing through your neighborhood, Lautenschlager-style. Note to Decker: Maybe that stomach-turning sensation is the fifth of Wild Turkey you forgot you drank last night.

Well, fortunately, I can save the U.S. taxpayers the time and money on an investigation into who is profiting off of these "immoral" profits. I reviewed the stock holdings of Russ Decker, and found that he might want to look himself in the mirror if he wants to find out who is profiting from high gas prices.

According to legislator ethics statements, Decker holds between $5,000 and $50,000 in the Vanguard Institutional Index Plus Fund. According to the Vanguard website, the #1 stock holding of this fund is Exxon-Mobil. In fact, the fund also holds shares of Chevron and Conoco-Phillips.

With this information in mind, I now challenge you to go back and re-read Decker's quote and challenge yourself to keep your Whopper with Cheese down. Who is "greedy?" Who is profiting on the backs of Wisconsin children who will be shivering in the cold come winter time? Is Russ Decker going to be returning all of the windfall profits he received from the oil companies?

If you clicked on my previous post above, you have seen that there are other hypocritical Democratic legislators that continue to make money as stockholders in oil companies, while decrying the "greed" of "big oil." (By the way, is there any other kind of oil company? Are there any "small oil" companies setting up in strip malls?)

For the most egregious example, see Fred Risser's holdings in Exxon in excess of $50,000. On September 16th of this year, Risser was quoted in Wispolitics:

The price of gasoline isn't due to the mark-up law. It's due to the oil cartels.--Democratic Sen. Fred Risser before a Senate committee 3-2 rejected Zien's bill to repeal the state's so-called minimum mark-up law.

The most disappointing thing about the whole gas price issue is the willingness by which press outlets are willing to swallow statements whole, without challenging them. The information I provided above is public information, available to anyone with an internet connection. This isn't exactly cloak and dagger stuff. Yet each time Doyle opens his mouth on gas prices, the media is there to dutifully reprint it, without ever asking questions about whether such an investigation might be an immense waste of time and taxpayer money for a cheap press hit.

As for Decker and Risser, I hope they take their windfall profits and buy blankets for all those poor children that are going to freeze to death because of their "greed."