May 15, 2010; Source: Bay Area Indymedia | Say goodbye, Exxon Valdez. BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill looks like it will be the worst oil spill in history, especially since experts suggest that the continuing leak is spewing oil five to ten times faster than BP admits. Gulf Coast area nonprofits are mobilizing to protest this horrific disaster, which is destroying the livelihoods of many coastal communities that only a few years ago were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The difference is that Katrina didn’t have a corporate puppet master pulling the strings. Here, the leak is attributable to British Petroleum—and the federal agencies that gave BP free reign. Suddenly, politicians are outraged at BP’s corporate environmental negligence, but where were they before the leak? Campaign contributions do wonders to avert politicians’ eyes until they’re forced to look. Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu was, according to this article, the top recipient of BP Congressional campaign donations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was the largest beneficiary of BP donations in the 2008 election cycle, taking in almost twice as much as his opponent, John McCain. What about nonprofit recipients of BP largesse? A couple of the largest “grants” on the Foundation Directory Online go to a for-profit, the JK Group, which seems to be the administrator and intermediary of BP employee giving campaigns. Aside from JK, the big winners of BP money have been KCET, a public TV station in California ($23m between 2004 and 2008), the Charities Aid Foundation of the UK (approximately $17.6m since 2003), over $5m to the Alaska Community Foundation, and thousands of larger and smaller grants to charities around the nation. As much as the public should call on politicians that have benefited from BP’s campaign generosity, we should call on nonprofits that have received BP’s philanthropic support to call out their corporate benefactor for the untold damage BP has inflicted on the Gulf Coast and on all of us.—Rick Cohen
About The Author
Rick joined NPQ in 2006, after almost eight years as the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Before that he played various roles as a community worker and advisor to others doing community work. He also worked in government. Cohen pursued investigative and analytical articles, advocated for increased philanthropic giving and access for disenfranchised constituencies, and promoted increased philanthropic and nonprofit accountability.