Revolving Door: From the Halls of Congress to BP and back again…

Sam Stein has an excellent piece up on Huffington Post today called “BP’s Lobbying Clout: 27 Former Hill and White House Staffers Working for Oil Giant.” Not much explication needed there. But Stein writes the following:

The revolving door between the oil giant and elected office is spinning fast — so much so that good government officials are hard-pressed to name a comparable organization with that much institutional clout on tap.

“It is a lot,” said David Donnelly National Campaigns Director at Public Campaign Action Fund. “You don’t often find more than two dozen.”

It blows my mind that “two dozen” revolving door lobbyists on a single issue is apparently not even enough to raise eyebrows anymore. Stein’s piece rehashes the brutal, sickening truth that BP had spent over $3.8 million on lobbying through the first quarter of 2010 alone. As I’ve noted before, that money could have bought a lot of acoustic switches. Not to mention diligent Research & Development devoted to contingencies and procedures that might/should/could prevent disastrous deep-water spills from destroying the Gulf Coast should they occur. But why buy that?

When you can buy this:

The cash was spread around seven prominent lobby shops within the D.C. area (including BP’s own internal operation), who in turn employed 39 lobbyists to help the company push its legislative interests. That nearly 70 percent of those hired guns have experience in elected office doesn’t surprise good government officials because those are after all the most sought-after hires on K Street.

Lobbying is apparently the only aspect of BP’s operation that functions with any sort of precision or care. Lobbying is the reason the aforementioned acoustic switches aren’t mandatory. What interested me most, but surprised me least, in Stein’s piece, was that Senator Mary Landrieu has 3 former aides and staffers currently lobbying for BP.

Landrieu is known mostly for being “the top recipient of BP-related campaign cash” during the 2008 election cycle according to Open Secrets. Her shameless shilling for BP was noted by the Washington Independent who in article titled “Some Gulf Lawmakers with Oil Industry Ties Downplay Spill in Their Own Backyard” characterized it thusly (emphasis mine):

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took to the chamber floor to say that she didn’t want “to minimize” the severity of the disaster. Then she spent the next 20 minutes doing just that.

The slick, Landrieu said, contains “only 3 percent” thick emulsified crude that exists as “a very thin layer” — only as thick as “a couple of strands of hair.” The 5,000 barrels spilling out each day, she noted, represent “less than one-fourth of 1 percent” of the nation’s daily consumption. Relative to that requirement “the industry spill rate is quite low,” she argued.

“It is more risky to import our oil in tankers than it is to drill for it offshore, even considering this disaster that we’re dealing with today,” Landrieu said. “Retreat is not an option. … We must continue to drill.”

You just have to love the Churchillian flourish at the end. We will never surrender to clean, sensible sources of energy!!! I’m sure Senator Landrieu’s boss Tony Hayward appreciates her efforts to get his “life back” to normal. Of course, you’ll notice that Landrieu was also spewing the company line about “5,000 barrels” a day gushing into the Gulf that even then, in early May when she uttered it, was widely disputed and disregarded by scientists and observers as far too low an estimate. More accurate and realistic estimates, since confirmed, indicate that the spill was gushing around 20,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf.

Landrieu describes herself as “an unabashed proponent of the industry” yet wants everyone to rest assured that the abnormally large campaign contributions she receives “have absolutely no impact on her policy agenda.” She felt compelled enough to dramatically announce to the Starbucks Morning Show, recounted via Politico, that she was “not a hand maiden to the oil industry” shortly before declaring “The last thing we need to do is shut this oil and gas industry down.” This isn’t quite as insulting to the intelligence as some of Senator Ben Nelson’s recent forays into “Black is actually White” non-reality; but it’s getting there.

At least her former staffers, Hewitt Strange, Jason Schendle and Courtney Johnson cut to the chase and work officially for BP without all the dishonesty and melodramatic nonsense.


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