BP hires Cheney press secretary to handle catastrophe PR

British Petroleum’s brand is suffering as much as its stock price, both sinking as fast as oil from its ruptured well pipes is rising in the Gulf of Mexico. The corporation has moved to stem the bleeding by hiring public relations specialist Anne Womack-Kolton, an expert in “high stakes communications surrounding public affairs issues and political risk management,” according to her Brunswick Group profile. Kolton was director of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. She was also Dick Cheney’s press secretary.

British Petroleum has, in effect, turned to its rolodex and drawn from the listings under Cheney’s name to find someone to smooth the widespread impression that BP has been in bed with lawmakers for years and flouted regulations in order to generate profits at the expense of the American people. The move will no doubt strike some as yet another BP management blunder– a PR misstep in managing its PR.

From the UK Guardian:

Seemingly aware of its rock-bottom public image, BP this week hired Anne Womack-Kolton, once press secretary to the former vice-president Dick Cheney, to bolster its public relations effort in the US. A CBS poll found that 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the way BP has handled the oil spill. And the worst has yet to come: so far relatively little oil has washed up on the US coast; in the weeks ahead, images of stricken birdlife, clogged marshland and blackened beaches are likely to be ubiquitous.

From PR NewsWire:

Womack-Kolton was director of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. At Brunswick, she is “focused on high stakes communications surrounding public affairs issues and political risk management for domestic and global corporate clients.”

“Anne has broad communications experience at the highest levels of government and brings to Brunswick a deep understanding of the regulatory and political issues facing the private sector,” said David Shapiro, a Brunswick partner in the D.C. office. “Actions in Washington increasingly affect the bottom lines of our clients, and Ms. Kolton is expert at communicating with policy makers and the media.”


Before joining the Department of Energy, Ms. Kolton was Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she was the primary spokesperson on issues and policy related to financial markets, financial institutions and financial education. She has extensive on-the-record experience with the media, particularly those covering energy and finance. Ms. Kolton also served as an advisor to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson, as a White House spokesperson and on major state and national political campaigns.

Kolton has been at the heart of “government relations” or what’s otherwise known as lobbying for the energy and finance industries, which have put the American people on the hook for trillions in damages these past two years mostly by skirting or defeating efforts to regulate them. Now it appears she’s being commissioned to spin the fall out.

[Hat tip to Kevin Hogan. Photo of oil-soaked Gulf thing via the Big Picture.]

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