BP Enjoys Lobbying Strength, Close Ties to Lawmakers as Federal Investigation Looms
On Thursday, oil
giant BP asked for U.S. government assistance in cleaning up massive
amounts of crude oil ominously approaching the coast of Louisiana -- the
messy results of a recent oil rig explosion 40 miles off-shore.
response, the Obama administration promised support in both clean up
and containment of the environmental crisis. The president also sent
clear signals indicating a potential federal investigation to determine
cause and responsibility for the accident.
If BP faces heavy
federal scrutiny, it's well-positioned to fight back: The London-based
company has consistently spent top dollar to influence legislative and
regulatory activity in Washington, D.C., the Center for Responsive
During the 2008 election cycle, individuals and
political action committees associated with BP -- a Center for
Responsive Politics' "heavy
hitter" -- contributed half a million dollars to federal
candidates. About 40 percent of these donations went to Democrats. The
top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 cycle was
Obama himself, who collected $71,000.
BP regularly lobbies
on Capitol Hill, as well. In 2009, the company spent a massive $16
million to influence legislation. During the first quarter of 2010, it
spent $3.53 million on federal lobbying efforts, ranking
it second (behind ConocoPhillips) among all oil and gas industry
Its registered lobbyists include a number of former federal
government and high-ranking political campaign officials, including
longtime political operative Tony
Podesta, former congressional chief of staff Bob
Brooks, former congressional legislative director David
Pore and vice presidential aide Michael
S. Berman, the Center's research shows.
Comparatively, the entire environmental
industry spent $22 million on lobbying
in 2009 -- not much more than BP alone spent for the year. The most
active member of the environmental industry, the Nature
Conservancy, reported $2.2 million in 2009 expenditures. Last year,
BP was active lobbying on the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of
2009, which allows increased oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico,
in areas closer to shore than current law allows.
The bill also calls for additional research and inventory
of oil and gas reserves in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The bill
is sponsored by Sen. Jeff
Bingaman (D-N.M.), who has received $14,000 in campaign donations
during the past two decades from those associated with BP, the Center
In 2009, BP also lobbied on the Oil Spill Prevention Act
of 2009 and the Clean Water Restoration Act.
The oil spill,
which has yet to be remedied, was caused by an explosion on a BP-leased
oil rig on April 20.
of emergency has since been enacted in Louisiana, and the White
House has designated it an event of "national significance." The oil
well is reportedly leaking between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels a day, and
rescue crews are trying to eliminate the oil by setting it on fire,
breaking it up with chemicals and skimming it off the surface of the
ocean. Already, questions are being asked about cause and
In 2009, individuals and political action
committees associated with BP donated $16,000 to members of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee.
In addition, five of the all-time
top 10 recipients of BP money in the House of Representatives sit on
the House Energy Committee: John
D. Dingell (D-Mich.) Joe
Barton (R-Tex.), Ralph
M. Hall (R-Tex.), Roy
Blunt (R-Mo.) and Fred
All have received upward of $13,000 from
BP-related individuals and political action committees during the past
two decades. Dingell, the second most favored recipient of BP money in
the House, has received $31,000.