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Gulf oil spill: BP's ad spending climbs

Bp As BP oil spread across the gulf this summer, the company spread advertising money across the media, spending more than $93 million to counter images of the mounting disaster.

That was more than triple the amount the company spent on ads during the same period last year, from April through the end of July, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s spill investigation reported Wednesday.

The company says the ads were intended to keep Gulf Coast residents informed on issues related to the oil spill and to ensure transparency about its actions.

 “It feels like BP is overdoing it” with its advertising, said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who asked for the figure. “It's really making people angry. Every day you get up and see these full-page ads in every newspaper and the TV ads. It's really ticking people off.”

"While BP’s advertising campaign ramped up, businesses and the gulf communities struggled to deal with the costs of the disaster,” Castor complained. “While BP certainly has the right to advertise, its approach has been insensitive to the taxpayers and business owners harmed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.‘’

BP spokesman Scott Dean said large companies such as BP spend hundreds of millions each year to communicate their activities and products to the public. The money spent on advertising is a relatively small portion of BP's total expenditures of about $6.1 billion on the oil spill to date, he added.

The ads — in which U.S-based employees vow to clean up and restore the Gulf Coast — appear to be having some effect.

An Associated Press poll shows the company's marks for handling the oil spill more than doubled from June to August — rising to 33% approval among those surveyed from a dismal 15% in June. Some 66% of those surveyed continue to disapprove of BP's performance, down from 83% in June.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans federal judge who scuttled the Obama administration’s six-month deep-water drilling moratorium in the gulf refused Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit that prompted his ruling.

Government lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman to dismiss as moot the lawsuit brought by drilling companies after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suspended drilling at depths of 500 feet or more in the wake of the deadly Deepwater Horizon well blowout.

Feldman ruled on June 22 that the government action was overly broad. Salazar’s department then withdrew the original moratorium order and issued a new one directed at drilling operations using the type of blowout preventer that apparently failed in the BP disaster.

The second moratorium affected the same drillers targeted by the first, Feldman noted in his decision to deny the government’s motion.

The second order halting deep-water drilling remains in effect through the end of November. It is unlikely the legal challenges to the first moratorium will be decided by that date.

The damaged deep-water well has not leaked since mid-July, when it was capped. Work to finish the relief well that will permanently seal it was suspended because of rough seas but is expected to resume later this week.

--From Times staff and wire service reports

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BP's plate of lies and deception, served up with incompetence, sauced with a huge ad budget, and garnished by a government in collusion, is a familiar dish. It goes to prove that you can fool many of the people most of the time if your pockets are deep, your ad agency cunning, and your political clout strong enough. Advertising works, especially when you're targeting addicts with your commercials; and we Americans are oil junkies.

Yesterday, President Obama had gentle words for his patriotic predecessor, the BP of presidents whose WMD search was as fruitful as the Macondo 252 blowout preventer was effective. With the release of his spinography, the enabler-in-chief of our nine-years-and-counting invasion cycle, Tony Blair, has found yet another way to feather his nest and try to reform his image. BP's spin doctors are experts, too. They knew their client could get away with a crime because they knew the people have short memories that are easily twisted by good PR and personable sound bites once the shock-and-awe is over. If mere heads of state can do it, why not mega-corporations?

Fooling the people isn't hard when they want to - need desperately to - believe in something. Deception, if well-played, can be reassuring in stressful times. Con artists know that well. The TP crowd desperately needs to believe that Glenn Beck's Christ-wrapped capitalism is good for the shrinking middle class and not just the elites. They crave confirmation that Sarah "Drill, baby, drill" Palin's rhetoric is from the heart and not the purse. Then need to believe that big oil is on their side, like the comfy and caring ads say.

Many who voted for change they could believe in two years ago came to be disappointed by tweaks instead of transformation of the Obama continuation. The lessons learned from BP's artful dodging will not be lost on the politicos. A rogue company whose killer refinery was dumping record toxins into the Texas City air while the well spewed crude offshore has neatly turned itself into a victim. Americans are beginning to forgive and forget - and to believe that BP cares about something besides the bottom line because glib and simplistic rhetorical flourishes fool many of the people most of the time, to their ultimate peril. There are lessons in this for the electoral decisions ahead.


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