Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dan Burton Parrots a Glenn Beck Lie to Smear President Obama

I just got off the phone with an intern in the Washington office of my Congressman, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana). I called to complain about a charge that Rep. Burton made on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier this week that was designed to smear President Obama. The allegation came a day after Glenn Beck made the same allegation (with pretty drawings on his chalk board, no less) on Fox News. The problem? The allegation is totally false. Moreover, it was proven to be false at least nine months ago. Yet both Beck and Rep. Burton were willing to place that allegation front and square before the American public and to hell with truth and accuracy. That is what is wrong with politics in America today.

The allegation in question has, in one form or another, been around for over a year. It has made its way into one of those ever-present chain emails:

Today even though President Obama is against off shore drilling for oil for this country. He signed an executive order to loan 2 Billion of our taxpayers dollars to a Brazilian Oil Exploration Company (which is the 8th largest company in the entire world) to drill for oil off the coast of Brazil. The oil that comes from this operation is for the sole purpose and use of China and not the USA. The Chinese government is under contract to purchase all the oil that this oil field will produce, which is hundreds of millions of barrels of oil".

We have absolutely no gain from this transaction whatsoever.

Wait it gets more interesting.

Guess who is the largest individual stockholder of this Brazilian Oil Company and who would benefit most from this? It is American Billionaire, George Soros, Liberal businessman who is a radical left wing supporter, finances as well as other liberal programs and was President Obama’s largest and most generous supporter during his campaign. If you are able to connect the dots and follow the money, you are probably as upset as I am. Not a word of this transaction was on any of the other news networks.

Here’s video of Beck and Rep. Burton (and Rep. Louie Gohmert [R-Texas]) leveling the allegation against President Obama.

(The full version of Rep. Burton’s speech is prominently displayed on Rep. Burton’s website.)

But here is what (a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center) said about the allegation back in September 2009:

This claim stems from a "preliminary committment" made back on April 14 by the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The bank intends to loan up to $2 billion to finance exports to the Brazilian oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A., known as Petrobras, over the next several years.

The e-mail is false on two counts.

  • The message falsely says the decision was due to an "executive order" by the president. No presidential order was required. Furthermore, none of President Obama’s appointees had joined the Ex-Im board at the time of the vote, which was unanimous, and bipartisan. The Ex-Im Bank states: "In fact, at the time the Bank’s Board consisted of three Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom were appointed by George W. Bush."

  • The message falsely claims that "we have absolutely no gain" from the loan. In fact, the loan is being made specifically to finance purchase by Petrobras of U.S.-made oilfield equipment and services. The mission of the Ex-Im Bank is to encourage exports by making such loans.

The bank’s chairman and president, Fred P. Hochberg, underscored the purpose of the loan during a trip to Brazil at the end of July:

Ex-Im Bank President Hochberg, July 29: I chose Brazil as my first international destination for good reason: Brazil is a powerhouse among South American economies and offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. exporters in many sectors. I want Brazilians to know that Ex-Im Bank has the will and the capacity to finance their purchases of U.S. equipment, products and services

Obama appointed Hochberg to the Ex-Im Bank on April 20, nearly a week after the board voted to approve the loan. He was confirmed May 14 and sworn in May 21.

The message claims that George Soros would "benefit most" from the loan, but that is also a baseless accusation. Soros is a favorite whipping boy of conservatives because of his early financial help to the liberal group And he is indeed a major investor in Petrobras, through his New York-based hedge-fund firm, Soros Fund Management LLC. But the hedge fund recently sold 22 million shares of common stock in the company (which carry voting rights) while buying 5.8 million shares of preferred stock (which is non-voting.) As reported by Bloomberg News, Soros reduced his stake in the company before any of the Ex-Im Bank’s promised loan has been dispensed.

There is some truth to the claim that China would benefit, but not much. Brazil recently agreed to export 200,000 barrels of oil per day to China in coming years. But that was in return for a loan by China of $10 billion, five times more than the U.S. Ex-Im Bank is lending to finance purchase of U.S. gear.

The Ex-Im Bank also would like it known that no loan has yet been made, and that the "preliminary commitment" could eventually result in either a direct loan or a loan guarantee. Either way, the Ex-Im Bank states, "no taxpayer dollars are involved." The bank is self-sustaining.

It is also worth noting that if you go to the website for the Export-Import Bank of the United States and type “Petrobras” in the search box, you’ll find several articles describing and discussing the proposed loan transaction, including the an article entitled “Facts About the Proposed Ex-Im Bank Loans for Petrobras' Brazilian Offshore Oil Exploration and Development”:

Background on Ex-Im Bank:
Charges and facts:

Charge: The U.S. government is giving away more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars to Brazil’s largest oil and gas company to drill for oil in Brazil.

Fact: The Bank has approved a preliminary commitment to lend up to $2 billion to Petrobras for the purchase of American-made goods and services. The funds will go to American exporters as payment for their sales to the company. Of note, the Bank is self-sustaining and no taxpayer dollars are involved.

Charge: The loans to Petrobras represent a giveaway of U.S. tax dollars.

Fact: The Bank’s activities do not cost the American taxpayer a dime. In fact, since 1992 the American people netted more than $4.9 billion and the jobs those exports created.

Charge: America is exporting jobs to Brazil as a result of the loans.

Fact: Only American made goods and services qualify for Ex-Im Bank loans or guarantees. This is the government doing what it's supposed to do - helping to create U.S. jobs, making sure that Americans get a fair shot at selling goods and services, and helping American workers compete on a level playing field against foreign competition.

Charge: The loan to Petrobras represents a reversal of the Obama Administration’s policies on off-shore drilling.

Fact: The Bank’s bipartisan Board unanimously approved the preliminary commitment to Petrobras on April 14, 2009, before any Obama appointees joined the Bank. In fact, at the time the Bank’s Board consisted of three Republicans and two Democrats, all of whom were appointed by George W. Bush.

Read Chairman Hochberg's Letter to the Editor that appeared in the August 21, 2009 editions of the Wall Street Journal.

Is it coincidence that two Congressman made the same charge on the floor of the House of Representatives the day after Glenn Beck leveled the charge? Maybe, but that’s some coincidence. But you’d think, just maybe, that before leveling these kinds of charges on the floor of the House, that the Congressmen (or at least their staffers or interns) would maybe do just a little research to be sure that the charge had some tiny bit of merit. Then again, we have to remember Rep. Burton and the famous watermelon. Facts don’t matter; only political points count.

I asked the intern whether I could expect to hear Rep. Burton publicly retract his allegation on the floor of the House. I’m not holding my breath. Once again, Republicans have proven that they simply don’t care about facts, especially when they’re trying to smear liberals or Democrats in general or President Obama in particular.

One more thing: When I spoke to Rep. Burton’s intern I also expressed my frustration at the continued use of George Soros as left-wing boogeyman. The problem, I explained, comes from the fact that Soros is Jewish and is almost always described as a billionaire or financier. That he becomes the boogeyman of all that is wrong with the America and that “secret deals” are done to his economic benefit harkens back to the old claims of “control” leveled against “Jewish bankers” or “Jewish financiers”, claims which have been at the core of anti-Semitism over the last few centuries.


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