Environmentalists have also been limited in their roles in the cleanup of areas affected by the spills. Workers hired by BP have so far done the majority of the cleanup. Environmentalists have criticized those efforts, claiming they are doing more damage as they attempt to repair the damage already inflicted. A recent New York Times article on this subject by Leslie Kaufman and James C. McKinley, Jr. includes quotes from multiple pundits, pointing out issues like mishandling of dead wildlife and destruction of previously unharmed plant life. “Some environmentalists assert that BP’s contractors seem more worried about giving the appearance of cleaning up than about cataloging the damage and taking care not to disturb the ecosystem more than necessary,” the Times reported.

Why does the US government appear to be in the pocket of BP?

The New York Times recently reported that:

Before the spill, BP had maintained a low profile in Washington relative to other companies, with its lobbying work and political contributions usually trailing other oil-and-gas giants like Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Conoco Phillips. Unlike many other companies with federal interests, BP kept most of its lobbying work in-house, although it had retained several prominent Washington lobbyists, including Ken Duberstein and Tony Podesta, to make its case on issues including tax incentives for gas production and climate control regulations.

A little clout can go a long way, however, and Timothy Carney, a conservative columnist at the Washington Examiner, recently argued that BP has been “a close friend of big government whenever it serves the company’s bottom line.”

“While BP has resisted some government interventions,” Carney wrote, “it has lobbied for tax hikes, greenhouse gas restraints, the stimulus bill, the Wall Street bailout, and subsidies for oil pipelines, solar panels, natural gas and biofuels.” BP has also helped Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman develop their climate and energy legislation. “Ironically we’ve been working very closely with some of these oil companies in the last months,” Kerry told a conference of labor and environmental groups in early May, just two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf.

While many have criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the spill, the coziness between government and the oil industry clearly has much deeper roots. Rebecca Lefton at the liberal Center for American Progress argues that the spill is “without a doubt former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Katrina.” Her post at the center’s Web site includes a timeline of Cheney’s time in office that points out millions of dollars in budget cuts for renewable energy, billions of dollars in tax breaks for “dirty energy,” and policies that allowed the oil companies to regulate themselves.

Yet reforms were “slow to arrive” at the MMS under Obama’s administration, allowing the same practices to continue. Ken Salazar, Obama’s secretary of the interior, joined the government with apparent plans to fix the corruption in the MMS did, but did little to repair old problems. At the same time, under his watch, the department leased a record amount of offshore area for use in drilling, according a feature article by Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson.

Salazar has already begun to reform the MMS, splitting the royalty-collecting and regulatory enforcement duties into two separate departments in order to avoid the conflict of interest created when one office does both. Clearly, though, the current and past administrations have had a dangerously close relationship with the oil industry and BP that goes back decades. It will undoubtedly require a lot of effort to untangle.

Did any executives from the companies involved in this debacle attend any funerals of the deceased workers? What were the payments to the families?

Bloggers have begun to call the workers who died during the Deepwater Horizon explosion the “Forgotten Eleven,” a term that has now migrated into the mainstream media.

Transocean, which owned the drilling rig and employed nine of those lost, organized a memorial that was held in Jackson, Mississippi on May 25, which got fairly widespread coverage. Steve Newman, president and CEO of Transocean, attended and spoke at the event, at times choking back tears while talking about each of the nine Transocean employees who died. Chris Rivers, CEO of M-I SWAC, a drilling company that employed the other two deceased workers, publicly stated, “These men are heroes, all 11 of them.”

Obama has invited the dead workers’ family members—many of whom have been unhappy with government and industry’s handling of the spill— to the White House this week,. At the memorial service in Jackson, one worker’s mother told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, “I think they’re doing it for a show. I don’t think it’s coming from their heart.”

Ethan Scholl is a CJR intern.