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Even after BP oil spill, fundraising events were hopping

Cleanup and containment efforts continue at the Gulf of Mexico site of the oil spill following the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

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By Carol D. Leonnig
Friday, June 18, 2010

Lobbyists for BP hosted at least 53 fundraising parties for lawmakers and candidates in recent years -- four of them since the explosion and oil spill at a BP-run oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a watchdog group's analysis.

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Lobbyists typically represent multiple clients, and it is unknown how many of the events were intended to advance BP's interests. The numbers are based on fundraiser data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, which collects information from anonymous donors and lobbyist reports. The list is incomplete, and it is possible the lobbyists held other fundraisers as well.

Nine of the 11 known fundraisers this year were hosted by lobbyist Tony Podesta or other lobbyists for his firm, the Podesta Group, who represent the company as well as many other interests.

Since the Deepwater Horizon rig's explosion in the gulf on April 20, here are the fundraisers by lobbyists who represent BP:

-- Paul Brathwaite and Cristina Antelo, who both lobby for the Podesta Group, were among numerous hosts for a May 26 party benefiting CHC-BOLD PAC, a PAC for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

-- Tim Glassco, also a lobbyist for the Podesta Group, was a host of a "young professionals" happy hour on May 25 for Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.).

-- Dan Meyer, a lobbyist for the Duberstein Group, was a host of an April 29 event for Carly Fiorina, who was seeking the GOP nomination for a California U.S. Senate seat.

-- Podesta and his wife, Heather, hosted an April 28 breakfast for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla).

Other oil and gas concerns have raised cash for lawmakers, too, sometimes with uncomfortable timing. On May 12, executives including BP's chairman, Lamar McKay, Transocean chief executive Steve Newman and Halliburton's Timothy Probert appeared before a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss responsibility for their respective roles in the Deepwater Horizon spill. About an hour earlier, House Republicans had gathered a few blocks away for an "oil and gas breakfast" fundraiser with industry members to benefit Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex).

(Photos of wildlife impacted by the oil spill)

David Donnelly, of the Campaign for Fair Elections, said he wasn't surprised that fundraisers were held by the lobbyists of BP and other oil firms.

"The fundraising season in Washington never ends, even when there are disasters like in the Gulf Coast and when the economy crashes. Members of Congress still have to look for money," Donnelly said.

Donnelly also expressed concern about campaign contributions to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who apologized to the company Thursday for what he said was a White House "shakedown" in pressing BP to set aside $20 billion to compensate victims of the spill. Later in the day, GOP leaders demanded that Barton retract his apology and stress BP's responsibility for the spill.

Barton, who was elected to Congress in 1984, has received $27,000 in campaign contributions from BP and its affiliates and $1.4 million from the oil and gas industry as a whole, according to campaign finance records.

"It's amazing that Rep. Barton would stand up for a multinational corporation that has wrecked the livelihoods of so many people along the Gulf Coast," Donnelly said. "Comments like this make all Americans question whether Congress represents them or the special interests funding their campaigns."


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