WASHINGTON – Green-energy activists from major environmental groups criticized members of Congress Tuesday for accepting money from oil giant BP or its employees and asked the legislators to donate the money to recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
The protesters — from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen and other organizations — lobbied Capitol Hill with an appeal to staff of the “BP Ten,” those Congressmen who have accepted the most from BP or its employees, to reject what the activists called “dirty oil” money in the future.
“As we enter campaign season, it is time for these politicians to show whether or not they remain committed to the cozy relationship that has formed between this industry and our government,” Greenpeace National Climate Director Damon Moglen said.
The “BP Ten” list compiled by Friends of the Earth include Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Reps. Ron Paul, R-Texas; Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.; Don Young, R-Alaska; John Culberson, R-Texas; and Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Begich, Landrieu, McCain, McConnell, Rangel and Young did not respond to McClatchy Newspapers’ request for comment. Paul’s communications director, Jesse Benton, said 97 percent of Paul’s contributions come from individuals who give on average $100. But according to the Opensecrets.org website, run by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Paul received $7,300 from BP or its employees.
Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said Hoyer — who received $6,000 from BP or its employees — has a policy to accept legal contributions and pursues policies “he believes are in the best interests of our country irrespective of … contributions.”
Said Culberson: “Tens of thousands of my constituents earn their living in the energy industry, including many from BP. The contributions I receive are an expression of support for my voting record, and they have no connection with the Deepwater Horizon tragedy nor do they influence the way I do my job as a representative.”
Culberson received $10,200 from BP or its employees. A spokesman for Murkowski — who received $8,500 — said there is nothing “unusual” about BP giving money to Murkowski and that her votes are “based on the people of Alaska, not her contributors.”
The spokesman, Robert Dillon, pointed to President Barack Obama’s campaign contributions from BP. Over the past 20 years, BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates, and Obama received the largest amount, $77,051, from the oil giant and its employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Begich received $8,550, Landrieu received $16,200, McCain received $36,649, McConnell received $8,500, Rangel received $6,500 and Young got $5,500, according to the Center.
Rebecca Connors, an outreach manager with Friends of the Earth, said none of the congressmen signed the pledge as of Tuesday.
At the rally, protesters dipped foam shaped like hands in chocolate to show Congress’ “dirty hands.” A man dressed up as a BP driller, with dollar-sign glasses, cleaned a plastic turtle while throwing fake oil.
“My eyes can only see dollar signs,” he said.
Environmental activist and Policy Director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network Ted Glick, who helped organize the lobbying drive, said the federal government must end America’s addiction to fossil fuels.
Tuesday was one of the first times Glick was on Capitol Hill since his arrest last autumn for hanging a banner in the Hart Senate Office Building. Glick avoided a three-year jail term earlier this month by submitting to fines and probation.