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Barton plans Florida Keys fundraiser; Apologizes to BP

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Texas Rep. Joe Barton, who apologized to BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward at a Congressional hearing today for having to create a $20 billion claims fund to help victims of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, is planning to host his “7th Annual Barton Family Fishing Trip & Florida Flats Fishing Tournament” the weekend of Oct. 15-18th on the island of Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

The event, which is in the Sunlight Foundation’s Political Party Time database of fundraising invitations, will be held at “the beautiful Cheeca Lodge & Spa” and the requested contribution to attend the weekend fundraiser is $5,000 per political action committee and per person, not including conference fees. Proceeds will go towards Barton’s leadership PAC, the Texas Freedom Fund.

The Cheeca Lodge & Spa has not seen any affects of the oil spill, a hotel staffer said. But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s newly launched online mapping tool of the disaster, the spill is only about 250 miles away from Islamorada.

Representatives from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary recently questioned BP representatives on their used of chemical dispersants to break up oil from Deepwater Horizon.

While no oil from the Deepwater spill has reached the Keys yet, Sanctuary Advisory Council member Martin Moe said: "While there appears that there is no oil in our marine environment yet, it appears inevitable we will see an impact." A federal attorney present at the meeting added that if coral is damaged as a result of the spill, the government can seek significant damages from BP.

The fundraising invitation also prominently lists Barton’s position as Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce – the same committee where BP’s Hayward testified today.

“I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a 20 billion dollar shakedown,” Barton told Hayward today.

“There is no question that BP made decisions that objective people think compromise safety. There is no question that BP is liable for the damages. But we have a due process system where we go through hearings, in some cases litigation, and determine what those damages are and when those damages should be paid. So I’m only speaking for myself, I’m not speaking for anybody else but I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure, that is again in my words amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize.”

Watch Barton’s full apology to BP here.

Update: Late this afternoon Barton retracted his apology to BP under pressure from Republican leaders who threatened to remove him from a ranking committee position. In a statement, Barton apologized for using the term 'shakedown' to describe the creation of a $20 billion claims fund to help victims of the oil disaster.