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  • 26May

    BP Oil Spills & Oil Lobbyists On the Move

    From npr

    Oil industry lobbyists are working hard to soften the blow they know will be coming amid hearings in Congress and as oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

    Democrats on Capitol Hill cast the situation in black and white.

    “Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the taxpayers or multibillion-dollar oil companies?” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) asked May 13.

    Menendez proposed a bill to lift the $75 million cap on corporate liability for economic damages from oil spills. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was ready, and blocked the bill — at least for now.

    The drive for legislation and the maneuver to block it are likely to play out many more times this summer — and fall — as the oil industry braces for an onslaught of legislation. Democrats want to pass a bill that will raise the liability limit to $10 billion.

    Lobbying Contributions

    “The oil industry, to read the newspaper, you would think is the most powerful lobbying group in the Congress,” said lobbyist J. Bennett Johnston, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana. “And the fact of the matter is, it is so far down the list you almost can’t find it.”

    It’s true that oil doesn’t have as many powerful allies as it used to — like Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s or Vice President Dick Cheney or Bennett Johnston himself, who in the 1980s and ’90s chaired both of the Senate panels overseeing the oil industry.

    But the industry has made about $13 million in campaign contributions for the upcoming midterm elections. Last year, it spent $39 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Now, Democratic leaders are weighing all sorts of legislation: tougher safety regulations, more environmental protection and new taxes on the industry.

    The April 20 explosion on the drilling rig owned by Transocean Ltd. and operated by energy giant BP killed 11 people.

    BP, which is responsible for the spill, has hired the Brunswick Group, a crisis-management firm with deep ties to the Democratic establishment. Transocean retained former Republican Rep. Bill Brewster as a lobbyist.

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