The BP oil spill presents quite a dilemma for politicians from energy-producing Gulf states: it is their states’ beaches befouled by the slick, and their states’ economies dependent on drilling. The rock-and-a-hard-place position is embodied by embattled Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who in congressional hearings told BP CEO Tony Hayward that he was sorry for and ashamed of the government’s “shakedown” in pushing BP to set up a $20 billion fund for spill-related claims. Barton later apologized multiple times for his apology. But perhaps voters should have seen it coming—Barton has received $1.4 million in campaign donations from the oil industry since leaving it in 1990 to run for Congress. Democrats are making hay of Barton’s comments, charging the GOP is beholden to big oil, but they’ve taken in big industry bucks too. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has taken $751,000 from oil and gas industry donations since 1996—she has sharply criticized BP, but also urged President Obama to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling. And Obama himself was the biggest beneficiary of big oil money in 2008, taking in $77,000 from industry-related donors. The industry has contributed $12.8 million to politicians—71 percent of them Republican—this year so far.
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