jail time for their roles in the largest oil spill in American
history, BP and Halliburton are building high-powered
legal teams with "deep Department of Justice and White House ties."
But the companies are pursuing other means to defend themselves as
Halliburton's campaign donations have spiked as it tries to curry
favor with key members of Congress investigating the disaster. The
company donated $17,000 in May, making it "the busiest
donation month for Halliburton's PAC since September 2008," Politico
reports. Thirteen of the 14 contributions from May went to Republicans,
while seven went to members of Congress who are "on committees with oversight of
the oil spill and its aftermath":
About one week before executive Timothy Probert
appeared before the House Energy and Commerce's investigative
subcommittee, Halliburton donated $1,500 to Ranking Republican Joe
Barton's reelection effort. It was Halliburton's second-largest
donation of the month - topped only by $2,500 to former Rep. Pat Toomey
(R-Pa.), who is running for the Senate.
In the Senate, Idaho Republican Mike Crapo, who serves on the
Environment and Public Works Committee, Georgia Republican Johnny
Isakson, who serves on the Commerce Committee and North Carolina
Republican Richard Burr (N.C.), who serves on the Energy and Natural
Resources Committee, all got $1,000. Sen. Chuck Grassley
(R-Iowa) also got $1,000.
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Meanwhile, a Hill analysis found that primarily during the Bush
administration, BP and other oil companies "paid
for dozens of trips and meals for officials" from the Department of
Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department
of Homeland Security - agencies deeply involved in the regulation of
oil exploration and spill cleanup. BP had the "highest
tab for gifts to government officials" of all oil and gas
BP and its affiliates - BP America and BP Exploration -
show up in the gift reports at least 16 different times, paying
for meals as well as for oil and gas industry seminars and tours of oil
facilities. The cost of the gifts totaled more than $7,200.
Only two industry-funded trips took place during the first nine
months of President Obama's administration. In 2004, BP paid for a group
of Interior officials to visit
an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The group included
then-deputy secretary J. Steven Griles, who later went
to prison for his role in Jack Abramoff scandal. In 2005, BP paid
for travel and meals for then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton and
then-Minerals Management Service (MMS) Director Johnnie Burton to
attended the dedication
ceremony of another offshore rig in the Gulf. BP also paid for
officials from the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service to visit
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska over a period of several years. A recent Interior
Inspector General report covering 2005 to 2007 found a "culture
of lax oversight and cozy ties to industry." Since January of 2008,
BP lobbyists have spent $30 million to influence legislation, according
to the Center for Responsive
Some coastal governors have benefited from BP as well. BP and other
oil companies gave Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) $1.8
million dollars for his campaign, and since the spill, he's been aggressively
downplaying the disaster and encouraging people to visit his
state's oily beaches. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) traveled to a BP-funded
conference in Houston last month "to lobby aggressively to drill
for oil and natural gas without delay." Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry
(R) dismissed potential BP negligence by calling the spill an "act of God"
at a trade association funded by BP in May.