Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Is Representative Bill Huizenga pro-corruption?

Posted by
Each day about 100,000 barrels of oil pass through pipelines near Omegwa, but little of this wealth appears to have been invested in the school. (Photo: George Osodi / Panos for Oxfam America)

Then why is he trying to make corruption easier?

Breaking news today from the House of Representatives is that Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI) is gathering support from his fellow Republicans to gut one of the signature bi-partisan anti-corruption laws passed in the last 8 years.

Huizenga plans to introduce a bill today that will roll-back the anti-corruption rule known as “Section 1504,” which requires oil and mining companies to publish the payments they make to governments around the world. This transparency measure was passed to ensure people in poor countries can follow the money and to break the “resource curse”, which has plagued poor countries like Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and more. It’s one of the most important anti-corruption/anti-poverty laws that Congress has passed in recent years and was spearheaded by Republican Senator Richard Lugar and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.

So why is Rep. Huizenga trying to make it easier to engage in corruption in poor countries? Could the $46,050 he’s received from oil and gas interests be one reason? One week into the new Trump administration, is this really Congress’ top priority?

The timing is certainly suspicious. It comes just one day after the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson, a vocal opponent of this anti-corruption rule, was confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a nominee to be the next Secretary of State. Exxon has spent millions, along with the American Petroleum Institute, to try to block this rule. Tillerson has personally lobbied on Capitol Hill and elsewhere to stop it.

Members of Congress supporting this effort are playing a dangerous game. On the substance, there is absolutely no benefit to rolling-back the rule. It is consistent with similar laws passed around the world requiring companies to disclose their payments; investors worth $10 trillion have said they support it; and it facilitates more responsible and ethical business practices. The US would immediately go from a transparency leader to transparency laggard if this rule is overturned.

But the politics are even worse. Are Republicans really going to expend their energy and political capital working to make it easier to get away with corruption? In the 5 years after the Cardin-Lugar rule passed, oil companies should have paid more than $1.5 trillion to governments of some of the poorest countries on earth. This money could have helped pay for schools, roads, hospitals and other critical measures to fight poverty without spending a dime of foreign aid. But too often, because these payments are kept secret, the funds are wasted or worse funneled to corrupt officials without any accountability.

On the heels of their ethics committee fiasco, is rolling back a rule to fight this corruption really the next big initiative Congress wants to lead with? “Forget jobs we stand in favor of corruption.” Not good.

So how do we stop it?

Stopping the bill requires 51 votes in the Senate. So call your Senator and urge them to oppose this measure. Tell them that a vote to overturn 1504 is a vote in favor of corruption.

Please call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with the office of your state’s Senator. Here’s a helpful script, just fill in your Senator’s name:


I’m calling to urge Senator [X] to vote NO on the joint resolution overturning the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption rule.

A vote to overturn Section 1504 is a vote for corruption. Please stand up against corruption and poverty and defend Section 1504.