The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is quickly becoming a serious ecological disaster. At the same time, the event has become a political hot potato as the various parties involved attempt to protect themselves from blame. British Petroleum (BP), the owners of the oil lease site where the sunken rig was drilling, is gearing up their lobbying team to present their case to congressional investigators. Thanks to their long-established connections, they may find some in Congress who are willing to listen.
The Center for Responsive Politics ranks BP as one of the top donors to political campaigns over the twenty years having given in excess of $6 million to congressional and presidential campaigns. The ten biggest recipients of BP contributions still in Congress are Rep. Don Young ($73,300), Sen. John McCain ($44,899), Sen. George Voinovich ($41,400), Rep. John Dingell ($31,000), Sen. Mary Landrieu ($28,200), Rep. Joe Barton ($27,350), Sen. Jim Inhofe ($22,300), Sen. Mitch McConnell ($22,000), Rep. John Culberson ($20,950) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ($19,500).
BP has focused a good portion of their campaign contributions on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. The committee is scheduled to begin hearings on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Wednesday. Since 1989, BP has contributed a total of $195,550 to the current 51 members of the committee. Rep. Barton is the ranking member of the committee. Rep. Dingell is chairman emeritus and was recently deposed as chairman by Rep. Henry Waxman. Other top recipients include Rep. Ralph Hall ($14,500), Rep. Fred Upton ($13,100) and Rep. Roy Blunt ($12,500).
While BP made investments in Congress with their wide reach of contributions, some lawmakers made investments in BP. At least 17 lawmakers reported holding stock in BP in their most recent personal financial disclosure filings. Rep. James Sensenbrenner holds the largest amount of stock in BP with a value between $100,001 and $250,000. One member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Rep. Upton, also holds stock in BP valued between $16,002 and $65,000.
The lobbying team assembled by BP also provides the company with reach into both Congress and executive branch. Twenty-five of the thirty-seven lobbyists listed in 2010 first quarter lobbying disclosures as being hired by BP have previous government experience. This includes two former top aides to Sen. Landrieu, a former aide to the Energy & Commerce Committee, former congressman Jim Turner and 15 others with congressional experience.
The former Energy & Commerce Committee staffer, Courtney Johnson, was listed as the host for two fundraisers over last year, according to the Party Time database. One was for Rep. Dingell, the former Energy & Commerce chairman. The other was for the political action committee of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a lawmaker close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Prolific Democratic fundraiser Tony Podesta is listed as a lobbyist for BP. Podesta is listed as hosting eighteen fundraisers since the beginning of the 111th Congress.
Other congressman who have had held fundraisers hosted by lobbyists hired by BP since the beginning of 2009 include Rep. Walt Minnick, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (twice), Rep. Barbara Lee, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Kay Granger, Sen. Richard Burr, Rep. Glenn Nye (twice) and Rep. Dennis Moore.