Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

BP donates to Indiana candidates; some return cash; some don't

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — BP’s employee political action committee donated nearly $24,000 to Indiana legislative candidates in June, but not everyone wants to cash the checks after the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The BP Corporation North America Inc. Political Action Committee sent checks to 43 Democrats and 37 Republicans. Indiana candidates were the only ones to receive money from the PAC in June.

Some lawmakers say they’ll return the checks even though they’ve accepted money from BP in the past.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has received $6,000 from the PAC in previous years but a spokesman said he will return the $1,500 this year. House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, also said he’ll return the $1,500 check written in June. Bauer has received $7,000 in campaign contributions from BP’s PAC since 2003.

Bauer questioned BP’s decision to send checks to lawmakers.

“I think they ought to take that money and help some of those poor people that have become impoverished in the Gulf,” he said.

BP is working on a $3.8 billion expansion of its refinery in Whiting. The company also operates a large wind farm in Fowler.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he supports the expansion of BP’s Whiting plant, which he said employs many residents and will allow the nation to rely less on Middle Eastern oil. Long said he hadn’t yet received the $1,500 check from BP and plans to send it to a charity helping those affected by the oil spill.

Other lawmakers say they’ll keep the money. Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, plans to keep the $1,000 the PAC is sending her. To turn down the donation, she said, “implies that a campaign contribution buys a vote, which it absolutely does not.”

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, got $500 and said she’s OK with the campaign contribution because it’s not “pay to play.”

“BP has a big black eye right now, but we also have BP as a local business and they’re not going away,” she said. “I’m as OK with that as I am with taking contributions from any local businessman or any local union. These are the people who make up your neighborhood.”

Sherry Boldt, BP America’s government affairs director for Indiana and four other states, said there was nothing unusual about the donations. She said during the last election year in 2008, the PAC gave about $29,200 to Indiana legislative candidates.

One reason why the PAC only donated to Indiana candidates on the June report is because many of BP’s government affairs staff has been sent to the Gulf. She said there was a chance she’d also be sent to the area, “so I wanted to go ahead and get my checks issued and out before that happened.”

Boldt said only about 20 checks have been delivered to the candidates so far. Boldt said she understood if some decided not to accept the money.

Julia Vaughn, policy director for the Indiana watchdog group Common Cause Indiana, said lawmakers who decide to send back the money have sent the right message to voters.

“There’s not any business in the United States today that has a bigger PR problem than BP,” she said. “They’ve learned over the years that campaign contributions can be a really good investment in terms of fending off hostile legislation.”



Posted 7/22/2010




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