It’s that time of year when legislation gets passed en masse so our nation’s weary legislators can make it home in time for weeks of festivities. All too often, however, it’s the lobbyists who celebrate Christmas early as earmarks buried in essential legislation sneaks through in the end-of-year haste. But shipwreck lobbyists? Indeed. Buried in the House version of the defense bill working its way through Capitol Hill was a minor change–two words and two commas–to a 2004 law called the Sunken Military Craft Act. The edits, promoted by lobbyists working for Odyssey Marine Exploration, would have paved the way for the treasure hunters to keep the 17 tons of gold, silver and assorted loot they discovered on the wreck dubbed the Black Swan. [See this earlier post about why we should protect our submerged cultural heritage]. Fortunately, prudence prevailed in the smokey dens of Washington’s power brokers–the proposed shipwreck language was stricken from a final conference bill approved by House and Senate negotiators late Monday.
Many thanks to the Washington Post for keeping an eye on things and publishing this great article, which gives a much fuller account.