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Hello pot, meet kettle: Melancon, MPERS, and BP

It’s a classic strategy – when you are seriously underperforming, find somebody else to blame, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon and Louisiana's Municipal Police Employees Retirement System have given us excellent examples of this philosophy in action.

Perhaps in an effort to revive his moribund Senate campaign, on national television the Democrat Melancon called for the head of the president of BP as the company’s well continues to emit oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Making the obligatory noises of agony over the situation, he also found the wit to call for criminal investigations of federal employees who might have given permits improperly to the operation, no doubt as a means to try to distance himself from his co-partisans running government whose orders potentially halting the industry offshore Louisiana already are criticized in the state and will have a negative impact on his campaign that already is deader in the water than an oil sheen. More positive action sooner by Melancon, such as in assisting the state in obtaining mitigation tools, might make this tantrum seem less self-serving.

Because apparently this represents a remarkable change of heart for Melancon, who a couple of weeks ago was telling national television reporters that the whole incident was being “overplayed” and who has shown little leadership in trying to deal with the looming crisis that threatens his current district more than any other. This seems particularly uncaring of Melancon, who otherwise seems so concerned about the environment that he is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money and emit many greenhouse gases to get to the South Pole to get a review of the global warming issue and to send some mail.

Still, his faith in failing short-term memories of the public pales in comparison to that of MPERS, who sued BP’s board of directors for actions the MPERS board thinks were erroneous and neglectful. This charge if proven could mean the needless loss of several million dollars in market value for the BP stock that the fund that backs pensions holds.

However, if this is the standard by which MPERS decides to litigate, perhaps its board should sue itself. After all, it allowed a series of questionable investments to be made in assets that most anyone with common sense would not dare to have a pension fund get into, culminating in an ongoing legal investigation into the activities of its attorney and MPERS assets. One failed Texas golf course investment alone has it on the hook for much more than the decline in its BP stock, and it lately, even before the economic downturn, has been performing poorly in its overall investment activities.

Which is why it already faces at least one suit from one of its members over its investment activities and its poor performance is leading police departments around the state to have to pay much more into the system to compensate. Yet its decision to sue should not have been unexpected, as whenever it seems to suffer a big loss it does so, as in the case of the Texas golf course.

The pots of Melancon and MPERS in apportioning blame naturally miss the irony of their calling kettles black. Hopefully, the public and system-vested police officers will not and will make decisions about their abilities to exert power accordingly.

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