July marked the third straight month that congressional candidates received no campaign donations from BP PLC's political action committee (PAC), according to federal disclosures filed yesterday.
In its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, BP's PAC reported taking in about $20,416 during the month of July -- largely in small amounts from employees in several states -- while donating $9,900 to 17 state-level legislative candidates in Ohio.
That choice to focus on a single state follows similar decisions in June, when the PAC sent its sole contributions to 80 Indiana state-level candidates, and in May, when nine California state-level campaigns received $8,250 from the oil company's employees.
The BP PAC's one congressional campaign donation attempted since its Deepwater Horizon rig failed on April 20, sending upward of 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was a $1,000 contribution to Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) on May 19. That check was returned uncashed to the PAC on July 7, according to its latest FEC filing.
The recent halt to congressional campaign giving comes as a departure from the PAC's pattern in recent months. Before the Gulf gusher began, BP's PAC had steered $14,000 to 11 federal candidates so far this year, according to FEC disclosures, and the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found that the PAC has made more than $79,000 in federal donations since January 2009.
Each of the three states where PAC donations have been directed since mid-April hosts a BP refinery. The company is in the midst of a $3.8 billion upgrade to its facility in Whiting, Ind., while $400 million in improvements are slated to begin this year at the Oregon, Ohio, refinery co-owned by BP and Husky Energy Inc. BP's California refinery is located in Carson, near the Los Angeles metro area.
BP representatives separate the company from the decisions made by the PAC, which is run by a committee of employees, and continue to maintain an official policy that prohibits corporate political donations (E&E Daily, June 22).
Nonetheless, both GOP and Democratic recipients of donations from the PAC have taken political heat from critics in recent months. One environmental group issued a public plea for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to return her contributions from the PAC during her hard-fought primary campaign, and former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin used a Facebook message in May to criticize President Obama for accepting donations from company employees and a $1,000 contribution from the PAC during his 2004 Senate campaign.