Creative Extortion 101
I recently came across an interesting situation in Illinois where
Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked gas station operators, whose
prices rose dramatically in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to
either donate to the Red Cross or possibly face a consumer fraud
Of course the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents the gas stations, claims they are being picked on. Madigan attempted to reach the settlements with 18 gas stations in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois after thousands of people complained about unfair increases after Katrina.
The 18 stations were chosen after an analysis of wholesale prices and the prices at the pump, some reaching $3.63 a gallon. On the other hand the gas station operators claim that they faced huge price hikes from wholesalers.
First of all asking for a donation in lieu of prosecution is lousy law enforcement, at best, and blatant extortion, at worst. What will Madigan propose next…that all bank robbers can avoid prosecution if they make a donation to the SPCA?
If Madigan had any indication at all that price gauging occurred she could have convened a grand jury and followed the money trail. However seeing that she could either incur a huge cost with no convictions or been forced to take on big oil, Madigan came up with this simplistic solution.
If profiteering actually occurred it probably benefited big oil to the tune of billions of dollars, so the donations would have been a small price to pay indeed. Tazewell County State’s Attorney, Stuart Umholtz, who is facing Madigan next year, is probably dancing with joy at the prospect of debating this gaff in the coming election.
Madigan on the other hand should pray that the voters forget her faux pas by election time or start considering other career options.