Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ethical? Should law makers be able to profit from the laws they write?

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News talks about Rep. Joe Barton and how he has profited from the Barnett Shale. Although this is not a crime, it does raise the question, is it ethical? Rep Barton purchased his minerals from Walter Mize of Cleburne. Before Mize passed away in 2008, he donated to Barton's campaigns and advised him on energy policy. Barton also wrote a law and sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Congressional experts say deals like this raise ethical questions.

Barton's interest could become controversial at a time when Congress is considering sweeping energy legislation that would boost demand for natural gas. Congressional experts say such deals raise ethical questions for lawmakers, who are expected by the public to maintain a firewall between their personal finances and official duties.

"If you are elected as a public servant to try to do what is right for the public generally and then you use that position to help bring in material wealth, I think it's unethical," said James Thurber, a distinguished professor of government at American University.

It seems that back in 2004, Barton proposed $150 million, 10 year federal program for research and technology for the Oil and Gas Industry. This became part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Yes, the same time that the "halliburton loophole", which allows the industry not to disclosed what is in the fracking fluid, was proposed and passed.

These paragraphs stood out.

Barton remains the committee's top Republican as it considers new legislation that would affect natural gas producers.

He has opposed climate change legislation that could benefit gas producers, but he supported a proposal to subsidize the conversion of thousands of heavy-duty trucks and federal vehicles to run on natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel fuel.

As an elected official, is it ethical to profit from the decisions or laws you make?
That question is being asked over and over again here in Texas.

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