By Mark J Landry
In times when stricken by disaster -both natural and man-made- we look to our elected officials to lend comfort. After all, we elect these officials, among the greater populous, to serve on our behalf within government, and with the mantle of leadership comes the burden of being the consoler of the public. We hope for our leaders to give aid and comfort in times of turmoil, and not betray the public to fit their own political needs. But putting her political needs above the public’s, is what Senator Mary Landrieu has done during one recent disaster.
On April 20, 2010, a mobile, floating, drilling rig, owned by TransOcean and leased by BP -named Deepwater Horizon- was drilling an exploratory well -35,050 feet into the Earth- when it hit a high-pressure pocket of methane which rose to the surface -ignited- exploded, and destroyed the rig. Deep in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, a key safety apparatus – blowout preventer- failed to perform its intended function in cutting the drillstring and sealing the well. The subsequent rig explosion and failure of the blowout preventer lead directly to the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. History -the BP Oil Spill. The BP Oil Spill unleashed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil between April 20 and July 15, 2010, when the well was capped, and impacted tourism, fishing and petrochemical industries, and the environment of each of the five gulf coast states.
After several federal investigations and commissions -conducted by numerous government agencies- it was concluded BP, TransOcean, and Halliburton used unsafe cost-cutting methods which lead to the explosion and ensuing oil leak. As a result, BP has paid $42.2 Billion in criminal and civil settlements, including payments to a trust created after the spill.
In Louisiana, since the spill, the letters BP have stirred hatred among those impacted by the Oil spill, because the extent of BP’s negligence can be understood by listening to the thousands who lost their livelihood thanks to that spill. One would think, no politician would want to have anything to do with BP or any other company responsible for the spill -unless it was in condemnation,- But not Mary Landrieu. Landrieu willingly accepted $18,600 -in campaign funding- directly from BP, and $22,350 from Alpine Group which is a lobbying group that was paid $160,000 by BP to lobby on their behalf (Federal Election Commission data as of March 25, 2013). Landrieu also willfully accepted campaign donations of $24,800 from the lobbying firm Patton Boggs L.L.P., who was paid $30,000 by Halliburton to lobby on their behalf (Federal Election Commission data as of August 19, 2013).
With BP accepting the majority of the blame for the oil spill, the door was opened for victims to seek spill induced damages. And like sharks drawn to blood in the water, lawyers throughout the country have set their sights on spill victims as their next “cash cow.” Landrieu, a lawyer, is no different. But rather than represent victims for the one-third most lawyers charge if the suit goes in the victim’s favor, Landrieu has found another way of earning profits -from oil spill related suits- by accepting campaign donations from law firms suing BP.
According to the Federal Election Commission data -as of August 19, 2013- there are four major law firms involved in pending or successful litigation, that have given campaign donations to Landrieu. Balch & Bingham (donated $10,500), Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams (donated $11,000), and Sher Garner Law Firm (donated $17,750) each have pending litigation with BP. Buzbee Law Firm (donated $28,800) won more than $5 million for Tradewinds, the largest resort in Florida, and more than $5.2 million to the Don Cesar, a resort in St. Pete Beach (www.txattorneys.com/clients). These are only four examples, as new law firms are suing on behalf of victims, and Federal Election Commission data is quarterly updated.
With the responsibility of serving as a representative of the people, comes the responsibility of fighting for those victimized by man-made disasters, but this is not what Mary Landrieu has done. What Landrieu has fought for is her own campaign financing at the expense of the very people she was elected to serve and protect.