Audit Notes: WSJ on BP, U.S. Props Up Egypt’s Mubarak, NFL Subsidies

The Wall Street Journal continues to lead on the BP disaster. It reported this weekend on emails showing that land-based company management created confusion among oil well workers and then pressured them to move ahead despite serious concerns in the Gulf.

The lede is excellent:

Just days before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the onshore BP PLC manager in charge of the drilling rig warned his supervisor that last-minute procedural changes were creating “chaos” on the rig.

“The operation is not going to succeed if we continue in this manner,” wrote John Guide, who directed the Deepwater Horizon’s operations from BP’s Houston offices.

His supervisor, David Sims, told him to tell rig workers “to hang in there.” Then Mr. Sims signed off to attend a dance practice, promising to call later in the day: “We’re dancing to the Village People!” he wrote.

Which is something like fiddling while Rome is about to burn.

On the morning of April 17, three days before the explosion, Mr. Guide sent the email to Mr. Sims to complain that “there has been so many last minute changes to the operation” that the rig’s on-board managers had “finally come to their wits end.”

“The quote is ‘flying by the seat of our pants,’ ” Mr. Guide wrote.

Mr. Sims replied about 90 minutes later, telling Mr. Guide that the team working on the well should remain positive “until this well is over.”

Oh, well. Oopsies, I guess.

— ProPublica’s Marian Wang puts together an FAQ on how our taxpayer money has funded Egypt’s repressive regime, to the tune of $2 billion a year.

Interestingly, she points out that while military aid to Mubarak has held steady, economic aid has tumbled over the last thirteen years.

And I like how she puts this:

No. Defense Secretary Gates stated in 2009 that foreign military financing “should be without conditions.”

Gates prefaced that comment by saying that the Obama administration, like other U.S. administrations, is “always supportive of human rights.”

Uh huh. Sure, boss.

— The Washington Post is good to look at how the NFL has tripled its D.C. lobbying in the past four years.

But it’s quite a miss not to note that the NFL, a $9 billion-a-year league, is a nonprofit with tax-exempt status. It’s also a nonprofit that pays its commissioner $10 million a year and its former commissioner $12.5 million. The NFL’s tax-exempt status effectively subsidizes those outlandish paychecks with taxpayer money (if the NFL had to pay taxes, it couldn’t afford to pay them as much).

Which reminds me of another tax issue, this one with college sports. The New York Times reported this in a story this weekend:

Federal law permits taxpayers to deduct annually 80 percent of a donation for premium seating or luxury suites. All other contributions, including those for scholarships and capital projects, are 100 percent deductible.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,