BP PLC's political action committee has become a pariah in the aftermath of this summer's oil spill, as lawmakers avoid accepting campaign contributions from the company responsible for the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
The PAC did not write any checks to federal lawmakers last month, according to an analysis of campaign finance documents released yesterday.
"Money from the political action committee of beleaguered oil company BP largely remains a toxic asset in Washington following the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which started six months ago," the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics said in an analysis yesterday.
The company's PAC has not donated to any federal campaigns since May, when it wrote a $1,000 check to Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But Gonzalez never cashed the check and returned it to the PAC in July.
Instead, the PAC has focused its donations on state-level candidates. Last month, it gave $19,300 to three dozen candidates, most of them Republicans, according to a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Transactions include $2,000 to Wyoming gubernatorial candidate Matt Mead (R), $1,000 to Ohio House Minority Leader Bill Batchelder (R), $1,000 each to five New Mexico politicians, and numerous smaller contributions to candidates and lawmakers in Indiana, Ohio, Washington and Wyoming.
But the state-level candidates, too, are distancing themselves from the British oil giant. The PAC last month wrote off $14,100 in contributions made in June to lawmakers in Indiana that were never cashed. The PAC also wrote off a $750 contribution made in August to California state Assemblywoman Norma Torres (D).
Those who received donations from the PAC before the Gulf gusher began six months ago have taken political heat in recent months. An environmental group issued a public plea for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to return the PAC's contributions to her hard-fought primary campaign. And former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska in May criticized President Obama for accepting donations from BP employees and a $1,000 contribution from the PAC during his 2004 Senate campaign (Greenwire, Aug. 20).
Since January 2009, the PAC has contributed $80,000 to federal politicians and committees, with more than half the donated funds going to Republicans. The PAC's top federal beneficiaries are the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who lost her party's primary election to tea party favorite Joe Miller but remains in the running as a write-in candidate. The PAC gave each $5,000 this cycle.
BP entered the political spotlight this year as this summer's oil spill sullied Gulf waters. The company capped the well in July and last month finished work on a relief well that sealed the ruptured well for good, but candidates are still trying to distance themselves from the company.
In the race for Louisiana's Senate seat, challenger Charlie Melancon (D) has tried to link incumbent David Vitter (R) with BP.
BP has featured prominently in two of Melancon's most recent television ads, and the candidate yesterday sought to portray Vitter as working to protect BP during a event about the spill. Melancon dubbed oil spill liability language that Vitter introduced in the Senate earlier this year: "the David Vitter BP bailout bill."
Vitter's campaign has pushed back against the attacks. He maintains a strong lead over Melancon in public polling.