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 As I reported last month, getting the tickets is as easy as calling the BP ticket request line, an unpublished phone number that appears to exist for the sole purpose of granting freebies to lawmakers, regulators, and their staffs.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.
Lucky Pols: Enrique Vega and Karla Mendoza, staffers for Assemblyman Hector de la Torre (D-Los Angeles)
Event: World Extreme Cagefighting (3 tix)
Why it’s a must see: “One of the most explosive mixed martial arts events ever.”
Lucky Pols: Shannon Kumagui, Legislative Assistant for California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles); Junay Gardner Logan, chief of staff for Senate Republican Caucus chairman Bob Huff (R-Metro LA); Les Kleinberg, director of legislation, State Controller’s Office; Dan Pellissier, deputy cabinet secretary, Governor’s Office
Event: The Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden Tour” (7 tix)
Why it’s a must see:
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California/
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis
Lucky Pols: John Kennedy, senior consultant; Lysa Markey, district coordinator for Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-North Coast); Steven McCarthy, consultant, Senate Republican Caucus; Sean Hoffman, legislative director for Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita); Madhavi Knickerbocker, legislative director for Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Riverside County)
Event: Carrie Underwood’s “Play On Tour” (7 tix)
Why it’s a must see:
You stole my happy, you made me cry/
Took the lonely and took me for a ride/
And I wanna uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it/
Date: 6/5 & 6/6 2010
Lucky Pols: Michelle Caballero, executive assistant, Assemblywoman Allison Huber (D-Stockton); Boris Cardenas, media consultant for Speaker’s Office of Member Services
Event: Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegría” (6 tix)
Why it’s a must see:
“The themes of the show, whose name means “jubilation” in Spanish, are many. . .Power and the handing down of power over time, the evolution from ancient monarchies to modern democracies, old age, youth—it is against this backdrop that the characters of Alegría play out their lives.”
Lucky Pols: Steve McCarthy, consultant, Senate Republican Caucus
Event: Sesame Street’s “1-2-3 Imagine! With Elmo and Friends” (7 tix)
Why it’s a must see: In this “high energy” musical, Ernie “captains the high seas” and Bert “meets an octopus who has the blues“