The Louisiana federal judge overseeing the civil trial over BP’s alleged gross negligence in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident attended a seminar in 2009 called “Criminalization of Corporate Conduct” sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 13 other funders. In 2011, that same judge dismissed a wrongful-death claim in a suit brought against ExxonMobil and Chevron USA for exposure to radioactive substances. Another judge who attended that seminar voted in a 2-1 holding to reject emissions caps that both the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber had opposed in briefs in the case.
In all, 11 percent of U.S. federal judges attended all-expense paid seminars whose top contributors included conservative foundations and major corporations
between 2008 and 2012, according to an analysis by the Center for
Public Integrity. Sponsors often pay for participants airfare hotel
stays and meals. Tim Meko reports:
Leading the list of sponsors of the 109 seminars identified by the Center were the conservative
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, The Searle Freedom Trust, also a
supporter of conservative causes, ExxonMobil Corp., Shell Oil Co.,
pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and State Farm Insurance Cos. Each were sponsors of 54 seminars.