A top BP lobbyist with strong ties to the Obama administration has been tapped by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help embattled House Democrats in the fall elections, potentially giving the Democrats their own BP controversy. [See photos of the Gulf oil spill.]
Tony Podesta, whose influential firm earned some $700,000 in lobbying fees from the oil-soiled company since 2008, is among K Street's best and brightest enlisted to help members in the DCCC's Frontline program. He and several other key Democratic lobbyists plan to help the most endangered House Democrats keep their jobs. [See the oil industry's favorite lawmakers.]
His firm's participation in the program established to help trouble members raise money and develop a campaign message is likely to be assailed by Republicans as an example of bad judgement by the DCCC. "From our perspective this not only highlights their hypocrisy but also is a big lapse in judgement," said a GOP official.
Republicans, struggling to offset the damage done when Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton used a congressional hearing to apologize to BP CEO Tony Hayward over the Obama administration's treatment of the firm, say Podesta's involvement in the Frontline program is a similar embarrassment, especially for those he and his firm will be assigned to help. According to Federal Election Commission reports, his firm has donated to members of the Frontline program. [See where the oil industry's money is going.]
Podesta's brother is John Podesta, who ran President Obama's transition. His wife, Heather, is a well-known and popular Democratic lobbyist.
Democrats scoffed at the attempt to compare Podesta's BP lobbying and help for Frontline to Barton. "That's a total stretch," says a key Democratic aide. "Republicans just gave Democrats a huge Christmas gift by keeping British Petroleum apologist Joe Barton on as the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee."
In fact, the DCCC's spokesman Ryan Rudominer just issued this statement:
"House Republicans decision to keep British Petroleum apologist Joe Barton on as the top Republican in charge of energy policy is consistent with their backwards governing philosophy of doing everything they can to protect corporate special interests."
He added: "The choice for voters this November could not be more clear: House Democrats stand with American taxpayers and the people of the Gulf while House Republicans and their candidates shamefully stand with Joe Barton, British Petroleum and Big Oil."