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BP’s Long-Term Game Plan: More PR, and a Flotilla of Lobbyists

Tony Hayward, when he’s not sticking his foot in his mouth, has devised a great idea to put BP back on top – an ad campaign.

The foreign oil giant BP has launched a new series of advertisements to contain the damage to its reputation and stock price from its uncontrolled disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In a television advertisement that aired nationally this morning, BP CEO Tony Hayward promotes how his corporation is running the response to the environmental calamity it caused.

Unlike the attitude expressed in interviews when he dismissed the scope of the disaster and complained that he wanted his life back, Hayward tells the camera he is “deeply sorry” for this “tragedy that never should have happened.” With the cries of seabirds in the background, he expresses an air of authority, lumping “volunteers” and “the government” together in his thanks for their help.

The only place where thousands of BP employees are working to contain this disaster are in the halls of Congress, where industry lobbyists are working furiously to stop Congress and the White House from strengthening regulations and oversight. For instance, they’ve already succeeded in securing an end to the moratorium on shallow-water drilling (I’ve heard a report that this may get re-instated, but for now it hasn’t), and they’ve employed Bobby Jindal to shill for the opening of deepwater drilling again. The money and influence at work here is staggering.

The oil and gas industry is a formidable presence in Washington. It spent more on federal lobbying last year than all but two other industries, with $174.8 million in lobbying expenditures, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

Political action committees set up by the oil and gas producers contributed an additional $9 million last election cycle to Congressional candidates, with Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Valero Energy and Chevron leading the way, the data showed. (BP ranked 19th, with $75,500 in contributions, most to Republicans.)

They even have federal government agency heads like Jane Lubchenco at NOAA toeing the industry line, denying the existence of giant underwater plumes of oil. (NOAA has sent survey vessels in search of the plumes.)

So make no mistake, the biggest strategy for BP is to protect their image and protect their practically unregulated work environment. On the former, I think they’re sunk, and with each day oil spills into the Gulf, the protests will grow louder. On the latter, you should probably never bet against the guys with the most lobbyists.

UPDATE: More on BP’s defenders from Elana Schor. Take a bow, Jamie Gorelick!

CommunityThe Bullpen

BP’s Long-Term Game Plan: More PR, and a Flotilla of Lobbyists

Tony Hayward, when he’s not sticking his foot in his mouth, has devised a great idea to put BP back on top – an ad campaign.

The foreign oil giant BP has launched a new series of advertisements to contain the damage to its reputation and stock price from its uncontrolled disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In a television advertisement that aired nationally this morning, BP CEO Tony Hayward promotes how his corporation is running the response to the environmental calamity it caused.

Unlike the attitude expressed in interviews when he dismissed the scope of the disaster and complained that he wanted his life back, Hayward tells the camera he is “deeply sorry” for this “tragedy that never should have happened.” With the cries of seabirds in the background, he expresses an air of authority, lumping “volunteers” and “the government” together in his thanks for their help.

The only place where thousands of BP employees are working to contain this disaster are in the halls of Congress, where industry lobbyists are working furiously to stop Congress and the White House from strengthening regulations and oversight. For instance, they’ve already succeeded in securing an end to the moratorium on shallow-water drilling (I’ve heard a report that this may get re-instated, but for now it hasn’t), and they’ve employed Bobby Jindal to shill for the opening of deepwater drilling again. The money and influence at work here is staggering.

The oil and gas industry is a formidable presence in Washington. It spent more on federal lobbying last year than all but two other industries, with $174.8 million in lobbying expenditures, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

Political action committees set up by the oil and gas producers contributed an additional $9 million last election cycle to Congressional candidates, with Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Valero Energy and Chevron leading the way, the data showed. (BP ranked 19th, with $75,500 in contributions, most to Republicans.)

They even have federal government agency heads like Jane Lubchenco at NOAA toeing the industry line, denying the existence of giant underwater plumes of oil. (NOAA has sent survey vessels in search of the plumes.)

So make no mistake, the biggest strategy for BP is to protect their image and protect their practically unregulated work environment. On the former, I think they’re sunk, and with each day oil spills into the Gulf, the protests will grow louder. On the latter, you should probably never bet against the guys with the most lobbyists.

UPDATE: More on BP’s defenders from Elana Schor. Take a bow, Jamie Gorelick!

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David Dayen

David Dayen