One Year After the Spill…

…BP campaign contributions no longer “toxic”

A year, more or less, is apparently how much time had to pass after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico before members of Congress felt okay about once again accepting campaign donations from BP. (Just in time for election 2012!)

We know this because Tuesday marked a deadline for political action committees, including the BP North America Inc. PAC, to file reports of receipts and disbursements with the FEC (filings which can be full of stories). And Wednesday, of course, marked the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and caused oil to stream into the Gulf of Mexico for months.

So it is that this week’s headlines include, yes, ”A year after BP oil spill, fate of gulf ecosystem remains murky,” (Washington Post) and, ”A year after the BP oil spill, what the Gulf Coast wants you to know: An editorial” (The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune), but also, “A year after spill, BP gives political contributions to Republican leaders,” (The Hill) and “BP donates big to GOP leadership,” (Politico).

More from Politico:

BP is doling out the cash again to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The company at the center of the storm in last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill sent out its first checks for the 2012 election cycle in March totaling $29,000. They went almost entirely to the campaigns of a handful of House Republican leaders.

BP on March 11 gave House Speaker John Boehner the maximum $5,000 contribution that can go toward a candidate’s 2012 primary campaign, according to a Federal Election Commission filing Tuesday, on the eve of the anniversary of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton also received a $5,000 check on March 1 — but Upton’s office says the money was not accepted and returned. Both House and Senate Republican campaign committees received $5,000 checks that day, as did House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s campaign received $1,000 on March 11.

Republicans weren’t the only beneficiaries of BP’s initial largess.

Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) received $3,000 in primary help on March 22.

The Hill, in its report on how “BP has broken a moratorium on political giving,” notes that the FEC filing “comes at an awkward time for the lawmakers, just a day before the one-year anniversary of the disaster, which crippled local economies along the Gulf Coast.”

And yet, per The Huffington Post, “campaigns that accepted the money did so without blushing,” evidence that “the stain of shame candidates originally felt about accepting [BP’s] contributions appears to have evaporated.”

The Open Secrets blog at Center for Responsive Politics provides some recent history:

Much like large swaths of the Gulf, the BP political action committee’s contributions became toxic during 2010 and early 2011.

Center for Responsive Politics’ research indicated that between April 20, 2010 — when the oil spill began — and the end of the 2010 election cycle, BP donated money to just a handful of federal-level political candidates, none of whom accepted the money.

Before the spill, BP’s PAC had donated widely to political candidates, both Republican and Democrat.

And during 2009 and the days in 2010 prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP’s PAC remained very active, donating $82,500 to federal political interests, the Center’s research shows. After April 20, the PAC’s finances actually fell into negative territory, as candidates either did not cash or otherwise rejected $6,000 worth of BP PAC contributions.

While BP took a break in 2010 from campaign donations, the company still managed to keep busy, influence-wise: the Center for Responsive Politics reports that BP spent $7,365,000 on “federal-level lobbying efforts” last year. And during the first quarter of 2011? $2 million. (Wednesday also marked a deadline for lobbying disclosure reports).

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR. Tags: , , , , ,