Several area state legislators accepted campaign contributions from a BP employees’ political action committee after this year’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – including two Democrats in tough re-election battles.
BP political action committees have given to almost 50 campaigns in Washington since the spill.
The BP North America Inc. Political Action Committee, funded by BP employees, gave to three candidates serving in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District. It contributed $500 each to incumbent Democrats state Sen. Chris Marr and state Rep. John Driscoll. It also gave $250 to incumbent Republican state Rep. Kevin Parker, who is unopposed in this year’s election.
Republican Michael Baumgartner, who is challenging Marr, highlighted Marr’s acceptance of the money at a debate earlier this month.
“It’s still interesting to me that Chris Marr took money from BP in the midst of the biggest oil disaster in our country’s history,” Baumgartner said in the debate that aired on KSPS-TV. “In the midst of the cleanup I don’t think that was the right thing to do.”
Marr has built up a massive campaign war chest – the second-largest of any legislative candidate in the state – and argues that donations from big businesses that typically lean Republican show he’s fair-minded.
“They have a large refinery in this state,” Marr said in response to Baumgartner at the debate. “As far as I’m concerned those that bring jobs to this state need our ears. They don’t always have my vote. But I’m very focused on growing jobs and putting them first.”
Marr said he has no rules against accepting contributions from legitimate businesses except tobacco companies.
Driscoll said he hasn’t had contact with BP about the donation but speculated that the BP committee may have been attracted to his campaign because he opposed a tax on oil earlier this year.
“I have no trouble taking BP’s money if they offer it,” Driscoll said. “It will never affect my positions on how we deal with big oil companies in the state of Washington.”
Driscoll noted that he opposes drilling off the Washington coast and believes the state has an obligation to deal with global warming. His opponent, former Republican state Rep. John Ahern, says human activity likely isn’t a significant cause of global warming and he would support drilling off Washington’s coast if oil companies found supplies worth accessing and proper environmental controls were instituted.
Ahern said this week that Driscoll’s acceptance of the BP money wouldn’t become a campaign issue.
“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Ahern said.
Other area legislators who accepted donations from the BP committee since the oil spill are:
• Republican state Rep. Larry Crouse, of the 4th District, $500.
• Republican state Sen. Bob Morton, of the 7th District, $800.
• Republican state Rep. Joel Kretz, of the 7th District, $500.
• Republican state Rep. Shelly Short, of the 7th District, $500.