[Guest post by DRJ]
The right and left are abuzz today over Congressman Bart Stupak’s claim that it is legitimate for the government to use some of the $20B BP escrow funds to pay for victims’ health care needs. I don’t know what Stupak meant by this exactly but this is another example where the law could be helpful, if the Obama Administration would be transparent enough to use it.
The term escrow has a specific legal meaning:
“Money, property, a deed, or a bond put into the custody of a third party for delivery to a grantee only after the fulfillment of the conditions specified.”
The average person runs into the concept of an escrow account when they buy or sell a house. The buyer’s money and the seller’s deed are placed in escrow and transferred only after both are received and any further conditions of the sale are fulfilled. At that point, a title company or lawyer will release the seller’s home title to the buyer. Without this legal technique, a buyer could pay money and never receive title from the seller, or the seller could convey title and never get paid.
Here, we don’t know if the report is true that the Obama Administration wants the BP money to be put in escrow or what the conditions of the escrow are. This could be the Obama Administration’s way of suggesting BP’s money is safe — an Al Gore-like lock-box — and will be used for the purpose of helping people hurt by the BP oill spill even though there is not an actual escrow. Or it could be Attorney General Eric Holder was present at the White House meeting with BP because they plan to establish a legal escrow account, and thus lawyers needed to be present.
We don’t know because the White House hasn’t told us whether there is a legal escrow agreement or the details such an agreement. To my knowledge, no one asked BP CEO Tony Hayward any questions about this yesterday. Thus, this is another reason Patterico is right that the GOP should have asked questions and gathered facts yesterday … and leave the pontificating to bloggers and everyday Americans on the internet.