California Pols Got Free Extreme Cagefighting and Sesame Street Tickets From BP
Despite being on the hook for unprecedented cleanup and legal costs in the Gulf of Mexico, BP has spent thousands of dollars in recent months on free concert and sports tickets for California lawmakers. As I reported last month, getting the tickets is as easy as calling the BP ticket request line, an unpublished phone number that appears to exist for the sole purpose of granting freebies to lawmakers, regulators, and their staffs. Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April, BP has given government officials 32 tickets valued $2500, according to a BP lobbying report filed yesterday. All of the performances took place at Arco Arena, the Sacramento stadium named after BP's West Coast subsidiary.
While BP gave away less than half the tickets it did in the same period before the Gulf disaster, its image problems didn't prevent staffers for some of California's most powerful politicians from partying on its dime. Junay Gardner Logan, chief of staff for state Senator Bob Huff (R-metro LA), the chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, accepted two tickets to see the Eagles' "Long Road to Eden" concert. She declined to comment. And staffers for Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) took in the Eagles and Cirque du Soleil. A spokeswoman for Perez said one of the staffers is no longer with him. "Speaker Perez has not accepted any gifts from BP," she added. "The fact that the Speaker has proposed a new tax on oil companies to close our deficit should underscore the fact that BP's ticket practices have no influence on public policy in the Speaker's office."
One recent recipient of a seat in BP's corporate box is helping to draft rules to implement AB 32, California's landmark cap and trade law, which is one of BP's main lobbying interests. In addition to tapping BP to see the Sacramento Kings play at Arco in 2009, Dan Pellissier, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's deputy cabinet secretary on energy and environmental policy, hit up the oil company for Eagles tickets this April. But this time he reimbursed BP for the cost, according to BP's lobbying report.
Shortly after I began reporting on BP's ticket request line, BP disconnected the line's recorded voicemail system. But now the ticket line is up and running again. To request a ticket, call (916) 444-7968.
Below is a complete list of California officials who've accepted free tickets from BP since the spill, along with highlights from the attractions that lured them into the embrace of the world's most hated oil company.