When Even Oil Companies Can't Trust Oil Lobbyists

In an exploration of "the murky world of advocacy-for-hire in Washington," the Washington Post's Dan Eggen cites two instances of independent ideological groups penalizing companies who declined to contribute to their messaging campaigns. The first involves a conservative group run by a former oil industry lobbyist:

Days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, a conservative nonprofit group called the Institute for Energy Research asked BP to contribute $100,000 for a media campaign it was launching in defense of the oil industry.

Although BP took a pass, the group's advocacy arm went ahead with a campaign -- only instead of defending BP, it vilified the company as a "safety outlier" in an otherwise safe industry. The campaign's Web site features dozens of images of the burning rig, oil-smeared birds and other environmental devastation from the spill.

"BP is a victim of its own carelessness," the group's president, Thomas Pyle, wrote as part of the campaign's kickoff in early July. "The rest of us should not be."

To backers of BP who were familiar with the discussions and spoke on the condition of anonymity, it seemed an awful lot like a shakedown. The initial proposal contained no criticism of the British oil giant or its handling of the spill.

The above case also demonstrates a split between oil and gas interests in Washington, specifically between shallow and deepwater drilling operations.

Eggen also notes a case from last year in which "the head of the American Conservative Union, a prominent Washington advocacy group, came under fire for siding with UPS in a labor battle after rival FedEx declined a request to fund the group."

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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