One of the more serviceable of American political adages is Follow the money. However, that doesn’t always work, as The Hill discovers today in looking at how our elected officials on Capitol Hill bet on energy with their own money instead of ours. Leading Democratic members of Congress like to buy into their favorite bete noir, it seems:
More than a dozen Democratic members of Congress critical of oil companies have investments in the industry, according to a review of lawmakers’ financial assets.
At least 14 Democratic members of the House and one senator have holdings ranging from several thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars in companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. or partnerships such as Schlumberger and Hornbeck Offshore Services. …
While many Republican lawmakers also have investments in the oil and gas sector, Democrats have generally been much more critical of the role oil companies have played in rising gas prices.
It’s hard to know how to feel about this. On one hand, credit should be given for elected officials who don’t automatically act to protect their individual investments. That has a certain amount of integrity, although Rep. Steve Cohen(D-TN) takes this a little too far:
“I always vote against the companies I own,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). “I don’t give a damn.” Cohen owns $15,000-$50,000 of stock in Chevron, $50,000-$100,000 in Exxon Mobil, and $15,000-$50,000 in Schlumberger, a highly profitable oil-services company that provides technical expertise and equipment.
Always? That goes beyond integrity to just flat-out stupid. One would think that self-interest would eventually come into play just to divest assets from companies that one opposes. That’s the mystery of the large-scale Democratic investments into oil companies. Why sink all of their money into the kinds of companies they regularly demonize?
Well, it’s not all of their money — and that’s the bigger point here. They have larger investments in these companies that most Americans, but it’s a safe bet that most Americans with any retirement or money-market accounts have investments in the same companies. “Big Oil” is owned by a large investor class, not by a couple of stogie-smoking fat cats. The demonization that the Democrats indulge belongs to a bygone era, one that got retired in a mass movement over the last generation towards retirement planning and investment.
It’s a form of self-indulgent hypocrisy, and it comes at the cost of a rational and productive energy policy. Instead dislocating their shoulders with their back-patting, I’d prefer that they allow all of us to profit from that rational policy and make all of us feel better.