Business as Usual


It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. This unprecedented environmental disaster has irreparably altered the lives of multitudes living along the Gulf Coast, yet BP continues to conduct business as usual on Capitol Hill. And it is the relentless work of BP lobbyists (among others) and our elected officials’ susceptibility to the sway of power that may stymie real and necessary policy reform. We saw that susceptibility clearly and stunningly laid bare in GOP Rep. Joe Barton’s counter apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward for what the congressman referred to as a “shakedown” on the part of the Obama Administration for demanding that BP setup a victims’ fund. As it turns out, Rep. Barton is the ranking Republican member on the House Energy Committee, and according to the Washington Post, “he has has received $27,000 in campaign contributions from BP and its affiliates and $1.4 million from the oil and gas industry as a whole.” Go figure.

Sadly, there are scads of politicians, just like Barton, who rely on Big Oil to get elected and re-elected. Right now, BP knows that better than anyone, and it shows. Watchdog’s report that BP has thrown dozens and dozens of fundraising parties for politicians in recent years –– four since the spill began on April 20th. You might think there wouldn’t be a whole lot to party about at the moment, but these fundraising galas continue unabated. According to the Federal Election Commission, the oil and gas industry contributes roughly $14 million to political candidates every year. And that number is bound to grow rather than shrink in the coming years.

Make no mistake, BP will continue to hold sway over our elected officials, even as the disaster continues to wreak havoc across the Gulf Coast and beyond. We must all hold our elected officials accountable to do the right thing when it comes to reforming the policy that governs Big Oil.

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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