BP Ramps Up its Political Influence

BriefcaseBP's former chief executive, John Browne, used to brag about his company's relative lack of political involvement and said he purposely shied away from spending too much on lobbying and political donations, but all that has changed. Since Tony Hayward took over as CEO of BP in 2007, the company has greatly increased its spending on American politics. BP has mobilized a massive lobbying machine in Washington, D.C., and since January, 2009, has poured almost $20 million into lobbying the federal government. The company has also hired powerhouse lobbyists like Tony Podesta, former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, and Kenneth M. Duberstein, former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan. BP's political action committee has ramped up its contributions to lawmakers of both parties, and especially to representatives from oil-drilling states like Louisiana and Alaska. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) has accepted over $15,000 in PAC contributions and thousands more from BP employees. Earlier this year, Landrieu said at a hearing that the risks of offshore drilling were "minimal," and even since the spill, she has cautioned against curtailing offshore drilling.