ProPublica’s Kim Barker investigates how some people affected by the BP oil spill soaked up money and became “spillionaires” by charging BP outrageous rates for cleanup work or getting large sums of BP claims money that was handed out in arbitrary ways. While some got rich, others hurt by the spill ended up getting comparatively little.
To understand how good intentions went wrong, Barker examined sales tax receipts and found they, “rose significantly in eight of the 24 most affected communities from Louisiana to Florida, despite the national recession….Flush with cash from cleanup and claims, many fishermen bought new toys, boats and trucks. Sales at the nearest Chevrolet dealer rose 41 percent.”
Barker traces some of the influx of cash to St. Bernard’s parish president, Craig Taffaro Jr. who broadly used his power to choose the prime contractor that supervised the cleanup. “At one point, Taffaro hired his future son-in-law to work in the finance department and help on the spill,” Barker writes.
Barker goes on to detail the enormous sums of money that went to St. Bernard’s parish, Taffaro’s actions and how he ended up with a considerable amount of campaign donations. She also describes how BP pushed back against paying some of the claims, and why they ultimately caved.