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Correction to This Article
This article about former federal officials working as oil and gas lobbyists incorrectly said that Randall Luthi left his position as director of the Minerals Management Service just weeks before the explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to become president of the National Ocean Industries Association. Luthi joined the oil industry trade group weeks before the April 20 blast, but he had left the MMS 14 months earlier.

Three of every four oil and gas lobbyists worked for federal government

BP, the government and an army of volunteers are fighting to contain and clean the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Three out of every four lobbyists who represent oil and gas companies previously worked in the federal government, a proportion that far exceeds the usual revolving-door standards on Capitol Hill, a Washington Post analysis shows.

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Key lobbying hires include 18 former members of Congress and dozens of former presidential appointees. For other senior management positions, the industry employs two former directors of the Minerals Management Service, the since-renamed agency that regulates the industry, and several top officials from the Bush White House. Federal inspectors once assigned to monitor oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have landed jobs with the companies they regulated.

With more than 600 registered lobbyists, the industry has among the biggest and most powerful contingents in Washington. Its influence has been on full display in the wake of the BP oil disaster: Proposals to enact new restrictions or curb oil use have stalled amid concerted Republican opposition and strong objections from Democrats in oil-producing states.

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Even considering the generally friendly relationship between

K Street and Capitol Hill, the number of well-connected oil lobbyists is remarkable. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics calculates that fewer than one in three registered lobbyists in 2009 had revolving-door connections -- less than half the oil industry rate found by The Post.

Officials with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group that tracks Interior Department officials who cross over to the oil sector, said they were surprised by the findings. "With these numbers, you can see how the revolving door between the Hill and industry allowed problems in the agency to happen and not be addressed," said Mandy Smithberger, an investigator for the group.

As both the House and Senate consider limiting the influence of revolving-door lobbyists, the topic will be a focus of a congressional hearing Thursday chaired by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), who has experienced the phenomenon firsthand: One of his former aides, Jesse McCollum, signed on as a BP lobbyist two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Towns's office declined to comment; McCollum did not respond to a message.

The Post analysis found that BP and other companies involved in the gulf disaster employ as lobbyists more than three dozen former lawmakers, congressional staffers and bureaucrats. BP alone has hired at least 31 internal and external lobbyists with government experience, records show.

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's leading trade group, employs 48 lobbyists with previous federal experience, the analysis shows. They include former senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), who helped deregulate the natural gas industry, and former congressmen Jim McCrery (R-La.) and Charlie Stenholm (D-Tex.), both of whom strongly backed oil interests while in Congress.

"If you want somebody to work on energy issues, you don't hire health-care workers," said Jack N. Gerard, the group's president and chief executive.

Few former government officials who joined the oil industry wanted to discuss their new roles. More than 30 individuals, companies and lobbying firms contacted by The Post, including BP, declined to comment or did not respond to messages.


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