BP defends Colorado PAC donations, avoids talk of $5.2 million fine
A BP Rocky Mountain region public affairs spokeswoman Wednesday, reacting to an apparent contradiction in its corporate campaign contribution policy in Colorado, said the global energy conglomerate has been consistent in how it makes donations to political campaigns.
A Washington Post story on Tuesday pointed out BP’s policy (pdf) dictates it will “make no political contributions, whether in cash or in kind, anywhere in the world.” But that belies the fact BP chipped in $4 million to “two Republican-aligned political action groups working to defeat state ballot initiatives in California and Colorado.”
In Colorado, BP very transparently contributed $1 million to a $10.3 million campaign war chest collected by Coloradans for Stable Economy to help defeat Amendment 58. Championed by Gov. Bill Ritter, the ballot initiative sought to remove a property tax exemption granted the oil and gas industry in Colorado in the 1970s and put that money mostly toward higher education.
Amendment 58, which even had some support in gas-rich towns across the Western Slope, was successfully painted as massive energy tax despite Colorado having one of the lowest severance tax rates among the major energy-producing states.
“We were very transparent in our support of that activity on the issues committee,” BP America’s Lisa Hough said by email Wednesday.
In Tuesday’s Post story, a spokesman said the giving was consistent with BP policy:
“When asked about its political spending, the energy giant said there is no conflict between its ban on political contributions and its donations to political groups. A BP spokesman said its policy bans contributions only to individual candidates in state and federal races, and does not apply to contributions to political advocacy groups registered with the Internal Revenue Service, political party organizations that give money to individual candidates, arms of political parties or larger political campaigns.
“’The types of spending that we reported here fits within our policy,’ said BP spokesman Scott Dean. ‘Our policy on not making corporate political contributions relates to candidates for political office at the state and federal level.’’”
Hough reiterated that policy on Colorado contributions to the Colorado Independent Wednesday:
“To the best of my recollection, we haven’t given any corporate money in Colorado to 527s or individual state candidates since I joined in 2006,” Hough wrote. “Any donations to federal candidates are through our BP Employee PAC, not corporate money.”
Hough, however, did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment on congressional testimony Wednesday morning regarding a hefty BP fine for under-reporting its Colorado drilling operations on Southern Ute tribal lands in Southwest Colorado.
Michael Bromwich, the new director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOE) for the U.S. Department of the Interior, announced a $5.2 million fine against BP for not accurately reporting energy production in the area. BP America is the largest natural gas producer in La Plata County and hopes to step up production there in the fall, as previously reported by the Colorado Independent.
A BP lobbyists, meanwhile, co-hosted a fundraiser for Colorado 4th Congressional District Republican candidate Cory Gardner in Washington recently, demonstrating an ongoing interest in the state’s political makeup. CD4 is home to extensive gas drilling, but not by BP, which does have massive alternative energy interests in Weld County.
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