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Gulf Oil Spill: Why Joe Barton Wants to Protect BP and the Oil Industry

Call it the "apologies" heard 'round the world. During a congressional hearing that was supposed to be a public dressing down of BP's chief executive, Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, faced CEO Tony Hayward and apologized for what he described as the $20 billion "shakedown" by President Obama for loss claims in Gulf oil spill. And then, just hours later, another apology for the original apology as the the White House and blogosphere erupted with harsh criticism and Barton's own Republican party turned against him.
I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown with the Attorney General of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that is unprecedented in our nation's history, that's got no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for the future.
Barton must have been more than a little surprised about the GOP's reaction. He was, after all, merely repeating the party's view about the $20 billion escrow account that BP agreed to fund. The Republican Study Committee, which has 114 members -- that's two-thirds of the GOP -- issued a very similar-sounding press release in response to the escrow account agreement just days before Barton's infamous apology, Josh Marshall of TPM noted:
BP's reported willingness to go along with the White House's new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics.
Why is Barton so hell bent on protecting BP and the rest of the oil industry, anyway? A stalwart conservative view on limited government? A mission to protect important industry jobs? Or perhaps, something more personal, like nearly $1.5 million in contributions from the oil industry, according to research from the Center for Responsive Politics. That figure jumps to $1.67 million, if you combine oil and gas industry contributions to Barton's candidate committee and leadership Political Action Committee.

A lot of politicians from both parties receive contributions from the oil and gas industry. President Obama, for example, was the largest recipient of BP-related money -- more than $77,000 -- with 99 percent coming from personal donations by BP employees, the data from Center for Responsive Politics shows. But Barton is special because of the sheer amount he has received and his active role in protecting the industry.

Earlier this week, Barton joined other Texas Republicans to introduce legislation that would end Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. Barton is the No. 1 recipient among House members for donations from the oil and gas industry since the 1990 election cycle. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona; and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Phil Gramm and John Cornyn, all from Texas, were the only politicians who received more from the industry.

And Barton's biggest fan (in terms of political donations)? Anadarko Petroleum (APC), which owns 25 percent in the Macondo well that is gushing as much as 60,000 barrels of oil and gas every day into the Gulf, is the single biggest contributer to Barton. Individuals from the company and PACS associated with Anadarko have donated $146,500 to Barton since the 1990 election cycle, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Photo from the Coast Guard via the Deepwater Horizon Response Joint Command For complete coverage go to: All Things BNET on BP's Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill