BP Plc, coping with congressional investigations and criticism over its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, added lobbyists with ties to lawmakers from the region to the company’s growing team of Washington advisers.
Eris Group registered with Congress to lobby on energy and environment issues in May, according to records made public on June 18. Jennifer Bendall, a former policy adviser to Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Jesse McCollum, a former chief of staff to Democratic Representative Ron Klein of Florida, are representing BP within the Eris Group.
The firm’s regional connections bolster a BP lobbying network that includes Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan; Tony Podesta, brother of John Podesta, who managed President Barack Obama’s transition team; and Hilary Rosen, a former head of the Recording Industry Association of America who once worked for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
“Gulf coast connections confirm the old adage about all politics being local,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “They know the territory,” he said. “They don’t have to be brought up to speed on the issues.”
Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns a 25 percent stake in the ruptured well and has criticized BP’s operation of it, also has hired a Washington law and lobbying firm.
Hogan Lovells lobbyists Michael House, a former Democratic Senate staff aide; Candida Wolff, President George W. Bush’s former chief lobbyist; and Reid Stuntz, a former Democratic staff director to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are lobbying for the Texas oil company, according to records released yesterday.
BP and Obama agreed June 16 that the company will create a $20 billion fund for claims from the spill that followed an April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the gulf. BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward was accused of “stonewalling” by Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, when he told lawmakers at a hearing on June 17 that he had no knowledge of decisions made before the explosion.
Eris Group, which calls itself “a boutique government consulting firm” on its website, notified the offices of Shelby and Klein that it was representing BP and hasn’t lobbied the lawmakers on the company’s behalf, according to Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo and Klein spokeswoman Melissa Silverman.
Shelby said June 20 that Hayward should step down after attending a yacht race in the U.K. Shelby called the move as the spill continues “the height of stupidity” in comments on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
Anadarko CEO Jim Hackett said in a June 18 statement that BP’s actions leading up to the explosion on the rig likely represent “gross negligence or willful misconduct.” BP is therefore responsible for the damages from the spill, Anadarko argues.
BP said it “strongly disagrees” with Anadarko’s contention.
BP spent more than $3.5 million lobbying Congress and the Obama administration during the first three months of the year, the latest records available. The London-based company spent almost $16 million in 2009, ranking it among the biggest spenders in Washington.
“Lobbyists are very effective at influencing public policy,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, a Washington-based advocacy group. “The most effective are people who have direct ties with government officials in Congress or in the administration.”
Thirty-five of the 49 lobbyists who have worked for BP since 2009 have worked for the federal government, according to Public Citizen.
Transocean Ltd., the Swiss company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, has retained Capitol Hill Consulting Group, a firm started by former Representative Bill Brewster, a Democrat from Oklahoma. Jack Victory, who served as an energy adviser to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, is also lobbying for Transocean.
Nalco Holding Co., of Naperville, Illinois, which manufacturers a chemical dispersant whose use by BP in the spill was questioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, hired Ogilvy Government Relations in Washington. Drew Maloney, who also was an aide to DeLay, and Gordon Taylor, who worked for former Representative Chris John, a Democrat from Louisiana, are lobbying for Nalco.