Joe Barton is really, really sorry.
The Texas congressman made headlines today for publicly apologizing to oil giant BP for what he called a government "shakedown" against the company; the government is asking BP to pay into a fund for those harmed by the disastrous Gulf oil spill. "I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize," he said.
But Barton's campaign of contrition for corporate wrongdoing didn't stop there. Barton went for a "two-fer" today, firing off a letter with fellow apologist Cliff Stearns of Florida demanding a hearing about the inquiry launched today at the Federal Communications Commission into how the agency should regulate broadband networks.
While not as blatant as his mea culpa to BP, if you read between the lines, the message is the same. Sorry, AT&T, that the FCC is bothering you. Sorry, Comcast, you can't block legal content. Sorry, Verizon, I really tried to kill off Net Neutrality when I was in charge.
Translation: Screw you Internet users, up yours rural America, and please keep those campaign contributions coming.
Oil spill victims ... the free and open Internet ... what's next on Barton's hit list, kittens?
It would almost be funny if it weren't so depressing.
We've seen it before, from the banks on Wall Street to the mines of West Virginia to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico -- laws loaded with special favors for the most powerful, toothless agencies that are supposed to act as watchdogs, and the bogeyman of regulation trotted out again and again to scare our elected officials from doing anything to protect us.
You'd think we'd have learned from AIG, Massey and the Exxon Valdez disaster, but here we go again. You'll be hearing a lot from the apologists and the astroturf groups in the coming days about "the government takeover of the Internet." But the real problem is the corporate takeover of Congress.
Barton wants to be sure a meeting on the FCC happens before the August recess. That should give him a chance to genuflect before the industry execs about all the trouble his colleagues have caused them by trying to make sure every American has the opportunity to connect to a fast, affordable, open Internet free from discrimination.
Of course, as BP might say, those are just the concerns of the "small people." And why would Congress ever be worried about them?