New financial disclosure reports show Iowa Senator Tom Harkin owns 90 shares of BP stock worth about $3,000. Harkin, a Democrat, says he was unaware the stock was in his investment portfolio until a matter of a few hours ago.
Harkin says he’s always opposed off-shore drilling and is uncertain if it sends a mixed message that he is, even at a small level, part owner of the oil company responsible for the worst-ever environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I don’t know, I mean, I’ll have to think about that,” Harkin says. “I’ve always legislated what I consider to be the public interest, not my personal interest. I’m happy to be judged on that basis, of how I legislate. I wasn’t aware I even owned the darn stock until this morning.” Harkin says he’ll talk with his financial advisor about whether he should liquidate or reallocate those assets.
“I don’t know whether I’m going to sell it or not,” Harkin says. “I suppose I’d take a big loss at it right now, but I don’t make those decisions. I always leave that up to my broker.”
Following a meeting with President Obama, the British oil giant is promising to set up a fund to help Gulf fishermen, shrimpers, restaurant owners and others whose lives and professions have been dealt huge setbacks by the disaster. An estimated 118-million gallons of oil have spewed into the water already.
“The latest news is that BP has agreed to put $20-billion into an escrow account,” Harkin says. “That’s a good start. I don’t know how much (money) it’s going to take, but at least 20-billion and they’ve agreed that there’ll be no dividends to their shareholders. I think Obama getting on top of it has convinced them that they shouldn’t do that.”
Despite those financial advances, Harkin says the president fell short in his efforts this week. “I’m slightly disappointed that President Obama didn’t make a more forceful demand, not even a plea, but a demand to move ahead aggressively on renewable energy in this country,” Harkin says. “This is the canary in the coal mine. We cannot continue on like we’re going.”
He says Obama needs to create a “bold, aggressive short-term project” to boost the production and use of renewable energies, including wind and solar power and bio-fuels like biodiesel and ethanol. Harkin says the president “missed an opportunity” to push renewables while the public’s attention is clearly focused on the disaster in the Gulf.