Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BP Showers Republican Leaders with Cash as Oil Spill Anniversary Nears

As the one year anniversary of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and Gulf Coast megaspill approached, the oil giant greeted the milestone by hollering, "Sooeey!" and Republican pols responded by running to the trough.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) thrust their snouts into the best part of the trough, gobbling down $5,000 each. BP Corporation North America also contributed $5,000 to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), and $5,000 each to the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Republican National Senate Committee.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) got $1,000 from BP, and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), the only Democrat on BP's "Nice" list, got $3,000

BP had laid low with its political contributions since the April 20, 2010 explosion and fire at its Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which eventually dumped millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and slimed hundreds of miles of coastline. The company had limited political contributions to state and local officials in the Gulf region during the past year.

As far as oil company largess goes, the BP contributions were relatively modest. The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas company trade group, kicked in $27.6 million, mostly to Republican candidates, during last year's elections, as well as another $7.3 million lobbying Congress and the White House. The Independent Petroleum Association of America dumped $19.6 million into GOP troughs last year. This was in addition to contributions from individual companies and their well-heeled execs. Exxon Mobil gave Republican candidates over $1 million.

That's a good deal of slop for the trough. Fortunately, the oil industry can pass those costs to consumers $4 per gallon at a time.

Even more fortunately, the oil companies can look forward to getting all that money back and more from taxpayers, as House Republicans dutifully voted to extend oil industry subsidies. McCarthy, Upton and Camp were among 249 Republican oil company vassals who voted against a March 1 bill that would have ended billions in oil company subsidies.

President Barack Obama's budget had proposed ending $3.6 billion in oil and gas subsidies in 2012. Despite oil topping $100 per barrel and gas topping $4 per gallon, Republicans lined up to defeat any attempt to end raining the dumptruck loads of cash on oil companies that even some former oil company executives saw as excessive.

BP, showing British restraint, had refrained from shovelling cash into national GOP Congressional and Senate campaigns last year, and some of the local pols BP backed wouldn't take their money. Oklahoma state legislator Jason Nelson didn't cash his check from BP. Many politicians probably felt accepting BP's money would make them look bad at a time when the oil company was nearly as unpopular as President Barack Obama in the region. There were, after all, plenty of other oil companies and industry PACs topping up the slop in the troughs.

BP North America's decision to begin slopping their hogs again became public when its political action committee filed a campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday. It was not immediately known whether the timing of the report, on the eve of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, was a classic example of the famous dark British humor.

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