BP's Best Friends in Congress

  • Corporations vote with their wallets

    Money has long played a central role in politics, and the mega-corporations that have earned their fortunes in the oil and gas industry have long been some of the most active in lobbying politicians and funding their political campaigns. Thanks to campaign finance laws, though, those contributions are monitored to see where different groups look for influence. Giving money to a candidate by no means implies any exchange of favors or corruption — and many industry lobbyists give money to politicians at all levels and from all parties — but knowing where the more outspoken proponents or opponents of legislation are getting their money is undeniably in the public interest. In the wake of the oil spill caused by a BP-leased oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that, when operative, drilled the deepest oil well in history, the transparency watchdog Sunlight Foundation released a report outlining the primary recipients of BP aid currently serving in Congress. Photo Credit: quaziefoto
    The Long Arms of Lobbyists
  • The Long Arms of Lobbyists

    While members of Congress receive the most money from lobbyists, due to their role in crafting and approving legislation for the country, governors and even presidents are common recipients of company cash. In fact, Barack Obama ranks higher than any currently serving member of Congress in the money received from BP, which during his time in the Senate and during his presidential campaign reached a total of $77,051. Even though BP’s official policy forbids giving money to politicians, the practice is commonplace. Here, we look at the 10 current members of Congress who have received the most from the oil company. The list includes both Democrats and Republicans, Senators and Representatives, men and women, some from oil states and some not. Many names on this list will be familiar to those following the ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, as there are some undeniable parallels between those who receive BP money and those who support the company and the industry in the aftermath, but while the link is there it’s impossible to conclude which came first, the chicken of BP contributions or the egg of a lawmaker’s position on fossil fuel.Photo Credit: kenhodge13
    10th Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 10th Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) BP contributions: $19,500 The senior senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison, has been a friend of the oil and gas industry since entering Congress in 1993. Her state is the leading producer of oil and gas in the U.S., and her position on the Appropriations Committee gives her an important voice in spending decisions to protect the industry. She voted to remove funding for renewable and solar energy from the budget in 1999, voted to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in 2002, and in 2005 she voted against extending Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on mercury content to oil and gas smokestacks. With the BP oil spill threatening Texas shores, she has been consistently vocal in critiquing the Obama administration for the red tape obstructing some cleanup efforts. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    9th Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 9th Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) BP contributions: $20,950 Houston’s representative in the House, John Culberson, has been re-elected four times since entering Congress in 2001. His voting record is consistent in support of conservative values, such as opposing gay marriage, environmental legislation and investment in alternative energy. He has been particularly active in his support of the oil and gas industry, voting to maintain subsidies for oil companies while voting against any measures that promote renewable energy sources or pollution controls that negatively affect the oil industry. The ninth highest recipient of BP money in Congress, he has spoken out repeatedly about the need to end the ban on offshore drilling. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    8th Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 8th Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) BP contributions: $22,000 As the GOP leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is well positioned to influence his Republican colleagues in the legislature’s upper house. While unmistakably conservative, McConnell has gone against the GOP’s base in his support for free speech and votes on gun-control measures. He has also taken a lead role in opposing campaign finance reform on First Amendment grounds, arguing that restricting contributions restricts donors’ political speech. With $22,000 of BP’s money in his treasury, removal of such restrictions would surely lead to even more financial support from the oil and gas lobby, considering his authoring of the 2008 Gas Price Reduction Act, which pushed for more offshore (and specifically deep-sea) oil drilling. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    7th Highest recipient of BP Money
  • 7th Highest recipient of BP Money

    Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) BP contributions: $22,300 Sen. Jim Inhofe is probably best known for his leading role in denying the man-made effects of climate change, having spent his career standing in sharp opposition to any form of environmental regulations and vocally supporting legislation to increase offshore drilling and allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One of the most conservative members of Congress, Inhofe once compared the EPA to the Gestapo. It may seem like BP is preaching to the choir by pumping more than $22,000 into the senator’s coffers, but with the senator’s pronouncements attracting consistent media coverage, it appears that he’s the one doing the preaching. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    6th Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 6th Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) BP contributions: $27,350 Joe Barton, a representative for Texas’s 6th district, made waves even among members of his own party when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward during an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing for what he characterized as a government “shakedown” of the embattled oil company. Not a surprising statement, considering that before being elected to Congress in 1984, he was a consultant for an oil and gas company, and he has consistently voted in the interests of the oil and gas industry, including his vote against the Kyoto Protocol and a number of votes supporting construction of new oil refineries and drilling options. As the ranking member (and former chairman) of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, Barton has long been friendly with the oil industry. Besides the $27,350 from BP, Barton has received a grand total of more than $1.4 million from the oil and gas lobby in his career, ranking him near the top recipients among members of the House of Representatives. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    5th Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 5th Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) BP contributions: $28,200 One of only two Democrats on this list, Mary Landrieu is one of the party’s more conservative members, whose positions on many issues are profoundly nuanced. She is socially liberal and believes in welfare benefits, but she has opposed some gun control legislation and, in terms of energy policy, she has both supported the development of alternative fuels and promoted drilling in Alaska. With such an unpredictable voting record, BP likely hopes its $28,200 in contributions will put the company in the Senator’s good graces. She has, however, come under fire before for supporting pet projects for her donors, as in 2008, when Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named her as one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress. So far, her position on the BP oil spill has been, well, nuanced, with the Associated Press reporting that she “reluctantly” voted for a bill penalizing the corporation. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    4th Highest Recipient of BP Money 
  • 4th Highest Recipient of BP Money 

    Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) BP contributions: $31,000 Rep. John Dingell of Michigan has long been outspoken in his support of the Detroit auto industry, a position that is as good for big oil as it is for the car manufacturers in Dingell’s home district in Dearborn. His influence is unparalleled, thanks to 12 years as the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and his position as Chairman Emeritus, which allows him a voice in all subcommittee hearings, whether he has voting power or not, for as long as he remains in Congress. He is already the longest-serving representative in the history of the House (he is seeking is 29th term in 2010), and although he is one of the most liberal members of the Democratic Party, Dingell has always been a friend to the auto industry and tempered his support of curbing carbon emissions with ensuring the viability of the industry. Perhaps for this he is the fourth-highest recipient of BP money in Congress. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    3rd Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 3rd Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) BP contributions: $41,400 In Congress since 1999, George Voinovich is a rare breed of moderate Republican in the Senate, having voted against lowering taxes and in favor of gun control. His positions on the Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Environment and Public Works give him an important role in discussions on issues related to the oil and gas industry, and although he has tended to vote along party lines on these issues, BP may see a need to keep the moderate Voinovich close through their contributions to his office. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    2nd Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • 2nd Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) BP contributions: $44,899 Known for many years as a “maverick” politician who was not afraid to go against the majority position within his party, Sen. John McCain has more recently been criticized for his policy reversals. His perceived need to appeal to the GOP’s conservative base in the interests of making a bid for the presidency led McCain to change his views on many issues related to energy and environmental policy in recent years. In 2000 he opposed offshore drilling; in 2008 he supported it. In 2000 he voted to maintain a budget for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; in 2005 he voted to ban drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It may be his openness to changing his mind on issues important to the oil and gas industry that has led BP to funnel more than $44,000 to him over the years. His record shows a real interest in environmental sustainability, but it also shows that his interests sometimes change. Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    Highest Recipient of BP Money
  • Highest Recipient of BP Money

    Rep. Don Young (R-Ala.) BP contributions: $73,300 It’s little surprise that Rep. Don Young of Alaska tops the list of recipients of BP money. His state is a virtual gold mine for the oil industry, with studies showing potential oil reserves under the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of more than 10 million barrels. Young, the lone representative from the state since 1973, is also the second most senior Republican in Congress and the ranking Republican on the Resources Committee. He has long been supportive of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in his home state, and BP’s financial support of his efforts has been enthusiastic. His reaction to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has shown his committed support for the company, as when he asserted that the spill is “not an environmental disaster … because it is a natural phenomena [sic]." Photo Credit: U.S. Congress
    Avoid Gulf Coast Oil Spill Scams
  • Avoid Gulf Coast Oil Spill Scams

    If you think the taxpayers are getting scammed by BP, you haven't seen anything yet. Here are some of the Gulf Coast oil spll scams you should avoid. Photo Credit: The Pug Father
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